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The Pearl

Chapter Text

“Honestly,” Iris Brosca says, putting a box onto the kitchen counter, “I’ve heard it’s a lot harder to find hook-ups when you’re no longer in university. You should just get yourself one of those Fleshlights, or whatever. Or, hey,” she clicks her fingers at him, “maybe a dildo! Whatever floats your boat, Theirin!”

Alistair winces. “Judging by the context, I really don’t think I want to know what Fleshlights are.”

Iris nods empathetically, squints, and sighs.

“Okay, so picture a sort of hard tube, yeah? Except inside of it–”

Alistair thanks the Maker and Andraste both for sending the moving guy into his new flat at this very moment, causing Iris to stop mid-sentence.

“Alright, everything’s there,” he says. “Just gotta sign this, and we’re done!”

Alistair picks up the pen being handed to him and signs his name where he’s asked to. Thankfully, Iris has moved on to other topics by the time the moving guy has left, and they finish bringing his boxes inside while chatting about what he’ll do with his life, now that he’s done with college and is living in Denerim.

She sticks around for a while, but once they’ve finished eating their takeaway pizza on their knees and it becomes obvious she can’t really help him unpack, she kisses his cheek and leaves him to it.

There are far too many boxes to take care of in one evening. Alistair half-heartedly takes out what he’ll need to sleep, as well as a few kitchen items, before giving up for the night.

There, sitting on his sofa among unpacked boxes, he gets curious. He fishes his laptop from his bag, opens his browser, and types the word Iris had mentioned earlier.

“Oh, my.”

Alistair doesn’t think he’s a prude. Really! But come on, this feels a little… He can’t find the word. Obscene?

In any case, he closes the tab and rubs at his heated cheeks.

“I don’t need a sex toy,” he mumbles. “I’m doing perfectly fine.”

It’s not that he doesn’t masturbate. He does, although he’d never admit that out loud. But there’s something strange about adding toys into the mix. It feels a lot dirtier than it already is. Thinking about them sends an unpleasant tingle down his spine.

Or at least he thinks it’s an unpleasant tingle.

He looks at the clock on his oven. It’s midnight.

By three in the morning, there’s fourteen new tabs open, each with an educational video pertaining to some sex toy or another, and Alistair is so engrossed in them he doesn’t even realise how late it is.

Nor that his laptop’s volume is a bit loud, for the time of night.


 

It’s the sunlight that wakes Alistair up, far earlier than he’d have wished for. He’d have to get better curtains. He makes a quick list of things he urgently needs to buy while eating a cereal bar Iris has left for him, digs up clean underwear from a box, and puts on yesterday’s clothes before heading out. Stepping into the entrance hall with his eyes half-closed as a meagre shield against the light, he almost walks into someone.

“Hey there,” a voice says.

Alistair looks up with a polite smile. The man he’d almost walked into is shorter than him. His blond hair is long, and the top of it is tied into a bun at the back of his skull. He smiles at Alistair in an expression that seems so natural it looks as though it’s just part of his features. There are tattoos on his cheek, lines that trace his cheek delicately and move when he raises his eyebrows.

“You must be the new tenant,” he says, and puts out his hand. “Zevran Arainai.”

He sounds Antivan. Alistair takes the hand. It feels warm in his, and he is very aware of his movements being sluggish when he shakes it. Is he making a bad first impression?

He clears his throat.

“Alistair. Alistair Theirin. Sorry, it’s been a bit of a long night,” he says as a justification. “What with the moving in and all.”

“Ah, yes.” Zevran doesn’t seem surprised. “You’ll quickly know many things about this building, I am certain.” His smile seems to turn a little wicked. “The first one I myself learnt is that the walls here are very thin.”

“I’m sorry?”

“You’ve done a bit of research, yesterday, have you not? I promise you however, there are a great deal more fascinating items one can purchase. Here.”

The man hands Alistair a business card he’s pulled from Maker knows where. It’s made from thick black paper, with purple lettering reading ‘The Pearl – adult store’.

“Oh,” Alistair says, eloquently. His shock is so great that he doesn’t even blush.

“You should come by, yes?” Zevran says enthusiastically. “I’m sure we can find something for you.” He taps his shoulder, but his touch is gone so quickly Alistair wonders whether he’s dreamt it.

“I– I don’t think I–”

But the man waves, hums in a way that doesn’t allow for a response, and then he’s gone out the door in a heartbeat.

Well done, Alistair. Just perfect.

Chapter Text

Alistair does quickly learn things about his building. Most notably, he learns that everyone is rather social, and very excited to see a new face around. Which is great to fight loneliness and even maybe find a job through word of mouth, but a lot less practical when one is trying their best to avoid their neighbour, for reason of incredible awkwardness.

Everyone is very kind to him, but they all seem far too invested in each other’s business. They stop Alistair in the hallways, asking him about his life and rambling about their own days, and one of them even mentions a get-together the whole neighbourhood does every few months. “It’s about community!” the woman says. “People forget what it’s like, to care for the people around you!”

This is all, obviously, very lovely, but Alistair would probably have had fewer incidents where he almost ran into his sex shop vendor neighbour if he wasn’t held up every few meters.

When he meets Iris for coffee across town, later that week, she laughs so hard as he explains the situation that he fears she might choke on her bite of cake.

“It’s your fault, you know,” Alistair says. “I wouldn’t have ended up down that rabbit hole if you hadn’t mentioned those damn Fle– things!”

“Fleshlights,” she offers, smiling gleefully around the word as Alistair buries his head into his crossed arms.

“They’re awful,” he mumbles.

She laughs. “How can you know? You haven’t tried one, have you?” She waggles her eyebrows at him.

“No, I mean all of them, all those– No! Stop looking at me like that,” he warns, “I am not getting any kind of… item.”

“Even after the hot neighbour’s offer?”

“It wasn’t an offer. Also,” he adds, feeling his face heat up, “I never said he was hot,” he mumbles.

Iris laughs. She seems so delighted, and it’s such a familiar sound, that Alistair can’t really stay mad at her.

“Oh, you didn’t say anything about his looks, but I know a flustered Al when I see one.” She pouts at him. It’s far more adorable than it has any right to be, given that she’s basically torturing him.

“It has nothing to do with him!” he protests, voice a little too high-pitched. “It’s just this whole…topic! It’s dumb, I don’t know why you all care so much!”

Iris eats a few crumbs from her thumb and forefinger, and hums thoughtfully.

“Well I think you should pay him a visit,” she says.

“Absolutely not.”

“Oh, come on, what’s the harm in going to his store! Worst case scenario, you get more fun stories to tell me.” She wiggles a little in excitement and smiles at him with that mischievous expression she sometimes has when she’s up to no good.

Alistair crosses his arms. “I’m not going to put myself into more awkward situations just because you think it’s funny,” he grumbles.

“Hey now, you’d also be doing yourself a favour. Like you said, it’s dumb, who cares! It’s not that big a deal.”

Alistair sighs. He slouches in his armchair, and briefly covers his face with a tired hand. “It’s this building, Iris, it’s getting to me. Everyone seems to know everyone’s life, it’s like Redcliffe all over again!”

Alistair doesn’t mention out loud the strict Andrastian schools he‘s been sent to over the years. He rarely does. But, judging by Iris’s scowl, she understood what he’d meant when mentioning his hometown. He groans.

“I already made a fool out of myself on my first night there, I really don’t want to be known as the sex toy guy.”

Iris giggles, only to straighten up when Alistair glares at her. “Sorry! You do have to admit it’s a little funny, though,” she adds in a smaller voice.

Alistair takes a moment to think. “Only if I get cake,” he concludes. “I think that’s the only way you can possibly get me to agree with you.”

“Well, if it’s the only way,” Iris says, and she slides the remainder of her cake to his side of the table.

“You’re going to be fine,” Iris tells him some time later, as they’re finishing their second round of coffee. “You’re still settling. It’s the first time you’re living alone, it’s bound to be stressful. I promise the neighbour is not as big a problem as he may seem to be right now.”

“I’ve always said you were wise, deep down,” Alistair teases.

She gasps and shoves his shoulder. “Oh, shut up! I could also go back to listing out sex toys types. Like strap-on dildos. Or clit vibrators. Or–”

“Aaaah!” Alistair covers both his ears with his palms. “I hate you, Iris.”

She pinches his cheek, just as she’s done since they first met, back in high-school. “No you don’t.”

Chapter Text

There’s a woman.

She’s always with Zevran. He’s usually alone, but sometimes he’s with her. They walk across the car park, arms linked, laughing and conspiring and generally looking delighted with each other’s company.

Alistair doesn’t know why he cares so much, but he does his best to avoid Zevran when he’s with her – even more than when he’s alone.

It doesn’t always work.

Just a few days after Alistair first sees them together, an evening where he’s heading out to the local pool (he’d rather not lose some of the habits he’s built over several years with the Wardens swimming team), he closes his door behind him only to find himself standing right in front of her.

She’s beautiful. She’s all naked legs and miniskirt and deep cleavage, and her black hair is held by a blue bandana that Alistair can only guess looks very fashionable.

“Ooh, you’re the new guy?” she coos.

She looks him up and down in a way that makes Alistair feel extremely naked.

“Uhh yeah, I guess I am!” He laughs nervously. “Do you– Do you live here?”

“Me? Oh, no.”

Just as she says this, there’s the sound of jingling keys and Zevran emerges from the entrance hall, a few letters in hand.

“Bothering my new neighbour already, Bela?” he asks. His eyes don’t leave Alistair as he makes his way to them.

The woman ignores him and digs into her bag until she fishes out a single dark piece of glossy paper, which she hands to Alistair.

“Here,” she says. “It’s a voucher. For the Pearl.”

The paper bears the same symbol and name as the business card Zevran has given him a few days earlier.

“Oh,” Alistair says, a bit weakly. When will he be free? “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome!”

Her earrings clink softly when she moves. Alistair notices distractedly that her lipstick matches her shirt. It’s a nice shade.

“I’ve heard you might need it,” she says.

“I– I– I wouldn’t say I need it,” Alistair stammers. He feels his cheeks heat up. The feeling of Zevran’s eyes on him really don’t help the situation.

“Don’t mention it,” she says.

Alistair can’t tell whether she’s a very oblivious person, or whether she’s just used to ignoring people’s unease. In any case, she smiles brightly at him, before looking back at Zevran.

“Got your mail?”

Zevran meaningfully waves around the few envelopes in his hand.

“In that case,” she says to Alistair with a wink, “have a nice evening! Do come by the shop!”

Zevran chuckles, and he loops his arm with hers as they walk away from Alistair. Just when they’re about to turn the corner, Zevran looks back at him, his eternal smirk growing into a knowing smile. His lips part ever so slightly, and then he’s gone, leaving Alistair alone with a pounding heart and the feeling something important has just happened.

Later, back in his flat, Alistair thinks about the encounter again. And somehow, the clearest thing he can remember, the one that plays in a loop in his mind, is Zevran walking away from him and laying those amber eyes right on him.

If the woman’s gaze had felt like being undressed, Zevran’s had felt like being set on fire. Even though it was her arm he was holding, that gaze had held so much raw focus that it had made Alistair feel like the only other person on the planet.

No one’s gaze should be allowed to have that kind of power, he thinks.

Alistair texts Iris to tell her about the voucher. Her very enthusiastic reply is, obviously, that he has no choice but to go now. Alistair wants to protest. But, deep down, he knows one thing for sure.

He wouldn’t have told Iris if he wasn’t looking for encouragement, just a little bit.

Chapter Text

The Pearl is not what Alistair had been expecting. It’s not a big, sinister looking warehouse at the edge of town; but rather a classy little shop tucked neatly between a pharmacy and a clothing store. The windows only display a couple of black outfits which could almost, if one squinted hard enough, seem like regular clothes. Well, if it weren’t for the fact that they’re made of a glossy black material which Alistair is fairly certain is latex.

When Alistair first spots the shop, his whole body stiffens despite himself and he walks past it. Maybe by the time he’s gone around the whole block, he thinks, he’ll have worked up the courage and confidence required in this sort of establishment.

He hasn’t. But now he’ll just look silly if he does another lap, so he puts a hand on the door before he can change his mind, and he pushes it open.

The first thing that hits him is how normal of a shop it is. Well, there’s a number of penis-shaped objects made from various materials being displayed on shelves, not to mention all sorts of leather and latex clothing (if they could be called such), as well as terribly tacky names on the labels; but despite it all, it’s just a shop. With shelves and clothes and labels.

Alistair is so engrossed in it all that he doesn’t notice there’s someone else in the room with him.

“New neighbour!”

The woman who’s often with Zevran slinks from behind the counter. The tight white dress she’s wearing is riding up her thighs as she saunters closer, and for one horrifying second Alistair thinks she’s going to kiss his cheek; but instead she stops near-by, and shouts in the general direction of the back of the shop, “Zev! I think you should take this one!”

The sentence hangs in the air only for a few seconds before there’s the sound of jingling beads, and Zevran appears from behind a shelf. His confusion melts into a warm smile as his gaze finds Alistair.

“Ah! So you’ve come!” he says.

“Well, I do have a voucher.” Alistair waves the somewhat crumpled piece of paper around before shoving it back into his jeans pocket.

“I’ll leave you to it,” Isabela says. “Call me if there’s a client for me.” She winks at Alistair over her shoulder, before disappearing where Zevran had come from.

And then it’s just the two of them.

Which really shouldn’t freak him out as much as it does.

Zevran’s smile is just as easy as it always seems to be, and when he moves closer, Alistair realises for the first time his eyes are a hazel so pale they almost look golden in the sunlight shining through the front window.

“So, your friend, she works here too, huh?” Alistair’s voice seems a little muffled to his own ears.

“Isabela? Ah yes, indeed she does.”

Alistair squeezes the voucher in his pocket. He’s vaguely aware that giving it back all crumpled won’t make a very good impression, but it’s not exactly like he’s got something better to calm his nerves on. “Oh,” he says, “I thought she was your girlfriend.”

Which would be none of your business, he mentally berates himself.

Zevran squints. For a moment Alistair wonders if he’s going to shut the topic down, but he just leans onto the counter and says, “Ah, well, I cannot say we don’t have our fun, from time to time, but no, she is my co-worker before anything else.” He sighs. “Although I am certain she would be utterly devastated to hear me refer to her in this manner.”

Well, that doesn’t seem like a great conversation topic. Way to put your foot in your mouth, Theirin. Again. “Oh, would she? Sorry, I didn’t mean to stir up any–”

Zevran laughs, a short, warm sound that makes Alistair’s fingers tingle a little.

“Don’t you worry, Cariño, Bela and I are doing just fine.”

Alistair doesn’t know what that name means, but he does like how it makes him feel.

“Oh,” he says, “good.”

There’s a pin, on Zevran’s shirt. It bears the blue-pink-white colours of the trans flag that’s all over Iris’s flat.

Huh.

Zevran watches him take the information in, his features a little tense. But then he must see something that sets his mind at ease, because he smiles sweetly at him.

“So,” he says. “Looking for something specific today?”

He gestures at the shop around them, and it takes a second for Alistair’s brain to catch up and remember where they’re standing.

“Uh,” he answers, eloquently. “To be honest, this isn’t really my scene.” Alistair squeezes the voucher in his pocket so hard it hurts a little, and he feels one of his feet shuffle toward the exit despite himself.

Zevran clicks his tongue. “There was a time where it was not my scene either, my friend,” he says.

“Hmm?” It’s getting really hard not to let his gaze linger everywhere. There’s rope hanging from the ceiling, and since it seems like the least risqué thing in the entire shop (and since staring at Zevran doesn’t seem any safer), it’s where Alistair fixes his gaze.

“We all started somewhere.” Zevran squints and taps his fingers twice against the counter. “I believe I started right…here.”

He crosses the shop, picks up a large pink dildo with what looks like a suction cup at the bottom and brandishes it between them. Alistair feels his cheeks heat up almost instantly.

“It was not a very good choice,” Zevran confesses. “First buys rarely are, especially when one is making them without advice.” He puts the dildo back onto the shelf, where it suctions down and starts wobbling a little obscenely. “Which is why you are so lucky to have me around,” he adds. Alistair thinks he winks at him, but he can’t be sure, because he can’t detach his eyes from the movement of the hot pink silicone cock.

“I understand how scary this can all look, trust me,” he continues. “But one does not have to go straight to ovipositor dildos.” Zevran chuckles at his own joke.

“What are they?” Alistair asks.

Zevran purses his lips. “Professional opinion? I doubt you would be interested in them,” he confides.

“Oh.”

“My point is, there are plenty of options, for all kinds of customers. Most of which are not as scary as our BDSM collection back there, I can assure you.”

Alistair can’t help but look in the direction Zevran was pointing in. He can only tell what a few of the objects in this area of the shop are, because many of them are just shapes he can’t make out, or they look like items of which Alistair doesn’t want to know the purpose. His eyes dart back to Zevran just as quickly as they’ve slipped away.

“If you wish,” Zevran offers, “I can give you a small tour of our most…basic items, as it were.”

Alistair nods. In his pocket, he lets the voucher unfurl. Zevran looks around him for a starting point.

Alistair and Zevran are standing next to each other. There's a sex shop in the background. Alistair has his hands in his pockets and he's looking to the side, blushing. Zevran is standing with his hands on his hips and smiling widely. There's a pin of the trans flag on his shirt.

“When dealing with a customer we are unfamiliar with, we usually try not to assume any previous knowledge. So, forgive me if I sound a little patronising, and do not hesitate to ask me to skip some parts if you’re already aware of what I am explaining, hmm?”

“Right.”

Unsurprisingly, most of Zevran’s explanations are news to Alistair, so he doesn’t interrupt him often. And as for the few things he does know, well, he finds himself a little too entranced in Zevran’s voice to remember to ask him to skip. The whole ordeal is a lot less mortifying than Alistair had feared, since Zevran is doing most of the talking, and his customer service voice is impeccably professional.

The Pearl is, indeed, just a store.

“Now,” Zevran says after a while, “if you wish to use your voucher today, here is my suggestion.” He whirls around, and he comes back holding a bottle. “This is a simple tingling water-based lube. It is one of our least intimidating items, as well as very versatile. It is great for adding, shall we say, that small extra kick to one’s usual activities.”

Alistair hesitantly takes it and turns it around in his hand.

He feels…relieved. This tiny bottle is indeed a lot less daunting than many of the other objects around him, although he has to make a conscious effort not to linger on the implications of lube usage in general.

“Alright,” he says.

“Alright?”

Alistair nods. “I’ll take it!”

“Hurray!”

Zevran looks so excited about his decision that Alistair can’t help but laugh.

“You should keep that enthusiasm for when someone buys that two-hundred-quid outfit in the window,” he comments.

“Ah, what can I say. I love my job.” Zevran sighs dreamily. “Making clients happy is our passion.”

“It sure is,” Isabela pipes in, making Alistair jump. When he turns around, he finds her leaning against a shelf full of harnesses and grinning at them.

How long has she been there?

“Found everything you wanted?” she asks him.

“I– I guess so.”

“It’s a good thing someone gave you a voucher, huh?” She says this to Alistair, but she’s making a face at Zevran while she does it.

Oh, right. The voucher.

The piece of paper is, by now, in a miserable state, but Zevran doesn’t comment when Alistair gives it to him. He scans everything, before handing Alistair a nondescript bag.

“You are a lucky man!” he says. “Your voucher covered the whole price of your purchase.”

Alistair looks up at him from his wallet. He wouldn’t claim to be exceptionally good at seeing lies in people’s faces, but he does notice small ones from time to time; and this doesn’t seem right.

Zevran gives him one of those squinty-eyed grins that challenge him to say anything.

Alistair decides not to take him up on that. He puts the wallet back in his pocket.

“Great! Thank you.”


Alistair (7:36)

            Well. I went to the shop.

Iris (7:40)

            no way! the sex shop?

Alistair (7:41)

            Yup.

Iris (7:41)

            how did it go?

Alistair (7:43)

            Better than expected, actually

Iris (7:44)

            alright now you gotta tell me
            what did you get?

Alistair (7:47)

            “Wet Dreams Tingling Lube.”
            The name is mortifying tbh. I might just have to scribble over it with a permanent marker.

Iris (7:50)

           hahahaha
           but wow, good first step! proud of you xx

Alistair (7:54)

            Also, Iris?
            I might be mistaken but
            You know my neighbour, the vendor
            I think he might have paid himself whatever price was left after the voucher was used up

Iris (7:54)

           holy shit theirin
           holy shit
           is that flirting? It sounds like flirting

Alistair (7:55)

            I DON’T KNOW, IS IT??  
            To be fair he was all like “it’s my job, we have to make people happy”

Iris (7:56)

            okay, that definitely still sounds like flirting lmao
            if you’re honestly being courted by getting freebies at a sex shop I’m gonna be so jealous.
            anywayyy
            i’m assuming all of this means that he is indeed hot, huh?

Alistair (8:10)

            …Maybe

Chapter Text

On occasion, when Zevran has company over, Alistair can hear them through his living room wall. Hear him, mostly – apparently, Zevran doesn’t care much about how thins the walls are.

Sometimes it’s just intelligible chatting, but it often dissolves into noises of a more obscene nature. The grunt and moans and impact noises make it a hard for Alistair to focus on what he’s meant to be doing; but he still finds solutions, blasting music in his headphones and doing his best to distract himself.

No, the sound of Zevran getting at it is not the most terrible thing. The most terrible thing is in fact his laughter.

That sound is the worst of all because it makes Alistair want to do all kinds of stupid things, like knock on Zevran’s door and ask to hang out, or listen more closely against the wall, or do whatever it’ll take to make him laugh like that again.


The evening when Alistair has bought the lube, he just puts the bottle on his kitchen counter, and stares at it intently for maybe a little longer than entirely reasonable. The bottle remains right there, untouched, for three full days. On the fourth evening, Alistair actually flips it and opens the cap.

It smells strange.

Well, it smells of nothing at all, actually. And that’s strange.

Alistair doesn’t quite know what he was expecting, really.

He squirts some of it on the back of his hand, and awkwardly spreads it around, like he’s seen Iris do to try moisturisers in fancy shops. He’s very glad that no one is seeing him do this whole routine.

And then, it happens; the tingling part of the lube’s name starts making sense. Alistair feels his skin become warmer and colder at the same time, and he lets out a small delighted gasp.

Well that…definitely…seems like an interesting sensation.

He licks his lips.

He doesn’t have anything urgent to do tonight. No email to write. No paperwork to complete. He really doesn’t have any excuses left.

He swallows around the knot in his throat, grabs the bottle, and heads decidedly towards his bedroom.

The sheets have just been washed, and they twist under Alistair as he lets himself fall onto the bed. He closes his eyes to let his mind wander; he’s learnt a while ago that porn rarely does much for him, and that his best bet at getting in the mood is still to let his imagination do all the work.

His lips part at the vision of a faceless body, half undressed already, hands wandering on them. Alistair’s breath is heavy; it mingles with the stranger’s own breath. He slowly undoes the buttons of his shirt, following his imaginary partner’s moves. The hands feel cold against his chest, the fingers unbearably soft over his nipples. His movements shake as he opens his jeans, head falling to the side when he pushes his boxers down to free his half-hard cock.

His body is starting to feel warm. Too warm. He sits up to remove his shirt entirely and opens his eyes to grab the bottle of lube.

He already feels himself hesitate, so he squeezes his eyes shut again as soon as he’s got a small handful of lube, and he lays back down unceremoniously.

The lube feels strange in his hand. He summons the image of the faceless partner back to his mind.

There are hands in his hair. Behind his neck. On his thighs. Spreading them apart, and–

He whines as the lubed-up hand touches the side of his cock. The cold of the liquid is soon replaced by the oh-so-sweet stinging of its properties, and Alistair isn’t even certain what he feels anymore. All he knows is that his hand glides so perfectly around his cock when he starts stroking that he fears for a moment he might come right there and then.

He immobilises his hand at the base of his cock, gasping for air, unable to even remember the mental images he’d been summoning up until now.

When he begins stroking again, he forces himself to go slower. It’s a tough task, and the lube feels utterly perfect on his skin, like it’s lighting up every single nerve of his body; but he does it anyway.

One doesn’t become a semi-professional swimmer without a little discipline.

Alistair is vaguely aware that he’s making too much noise. It’s obscene. Is there a risk people can hear him from the hallway? Is there a risk Zevran can hear him through their shared wall?

Alistair’s jaw squeezes painfully tight at the thought.

Letting one’s eroticism run solely on the imagination sounds like a great idea, up until the point where said imagination runs away with an idea it likes.

That’s how he’s there in a split second, summoned from Alistair’s subconscious, lips almost brushing his skin as he murmurs right into his ear.

We might have to gag you, my friend.

Alistair gasps, free hand flying to his mouth to cover it. He whines through his fingers as Zevran tuts in disapproval in his mind, and if the jerks of his hips towards his fist are a little more pressed, it’s by no conscious decision.

He shouldn’t– it’s not–

Imaginary Zevran smirks. He trails his fingers down Alistair’s cheek.

And that’s enough to undo him.

Alistair comes into his fist with a strangled shout, curling in on himself. The image of Zevran disappears on its own as Alistair rides the end of the high, still too light-headed to quite feel shame yet.

His arms are weak. They lay useless by his side. As he opens his eyes to stare at the ceiling, he can’t help but smile.

Wet Dreams Tingling Lube was definitely a good buy.

Chapter Text

Alistair (4:38):

          Seriously, I don’t want to go.
          We can just stay at my flat when you get here
          Watch a movie
          It would be so much more fun

Iris (4:40)

          no way
          i’m not letting you chicken out
          it’s just a neighbourhood get-together, you’ll be fine

Alistair (4:41)

          Ughhh
          You’re meant to be my friend

Iris (4:42)

          exactly
          hey alistair
          is it about him?

Alistair (4:45)

          Shut up

Iris (4:45)

          it is isn’t it

Alistair (4:46)

          Please don’t be weird

Iris (4:47)

          i’m never weird
          you’re weird
          anyway this changes everything
          i’m now your chaperone
          can’t let you crazy kids sneak off and make out behind the bushes

Alistair (4:50)

          stOP
          This is mortifying!! I haven’t seen him since I went to his store!

Iris (4:52)

          omg are you avoiding him?

Alistair (4:53)

          Kind of?

Iris (4:55)

          the lube is that good, huh.

Alistair (4:57)

          You’re not my friend anymore
          And I am NOT discussing this with you

Iris (5:50)

          but if not me, then who??
          you’d be lost without my relentless advice and questioning Theirin
          anyway I’m here, open up you dork

 

Alistair rubs the balls of his hands against his eyelids, grunting loudly. Asking Iris to come along didn’t seem like such a bad idea, until she began fancying herself a matchmaker. Not that it should come as a surprise, really… Alistair has lost count of the amount of people she’s tried to pair him with since they were high-school students.

But now, really? When there’s a guy he might actually get flustered by?

There’s a knock at the door.

“I’m coming!” he shouts over his shoulder.

Behind the door he finds Iris leaning against the frame, considering her perfectly painted nails in exaggerated nonchalance.

“Rehearsing for when you get some alone time with the hot neighbour, huh?”

Alistair chokes on his own tongue, but still has the presence of mind to grip Iris’s arm and drag her into his flat before anyone hears her. She comes along with a giggle, dark dress flowing in her wake.

“How did you even get through the front entrance?” Alistair asks, hoping to derail her focus.

She waves vaguely. “Someone held the door for me! Because they’re well-educated. Unlike a certain rude boy,” she adds, poking his chest as he lets go of her arm, and then she hops onto his kitchen counter. “Do you think it might have been him?”

The way she says the last word makes Alistair feel like she already has a binder full of wedding plans for them, and he laughs nervously as he grabs his jacket from a hanger.

“Are you going to be like that all afternoon?”

By the time he turns back around, he’s got an armful of Iris and a mouthful of bright pink hair.

“Of course not,” she says, squeezing him against her. “You know I only like to embarrass you in private. In public, everyone has to see how cool and smooth my best bud is.”

She taps his head gently. It makes him a feel a little bit like a lapdog, but he doesn’t quite mind. He can’t be mad after a patented Iris hug.

“It would reflect badly on me,” she whispers in his ear before letting him go.

“You’re a cold, cold woman.”

Her hands fly to her heart, and she gasps. “Why thank you!”

She winks at him, and Alistair can’t help but laugh. Maybe this whole event won’t be as bad he’d feared.

The get-together is happening in a nearby park. There’s a thin flow of people from the surrounding buildings to the spot, so it isn’t hard to find the gathering. A few tables have been set up with some food and drinks, and Alistair heads straight to a woman handing out drinks Alistair doesn’t bother to identify. If nothing else, it’ll be something to occupy his hands with.

“You know, my dear Alistair, I find it very hard not to be offended. It almost feels as though you’re avoiding me.”

Fuck.

When he turns back around Zevran is standing there, as collected as ever, a small smile tugging at the corners of his lips. The button-up shirt he’s wearing is open probably a little lower than propriety dictates, and his smiles widens when Alistair’s gaze flickers to his chest.

“Ah, I’m sorry.” Alistair’s says, rubbing the back of his neck. He takes a few steps away from the crowd, and Zevran thankfully follows without a word. He looks around, but it’s as though Iris has vanished.

“It’s just, I don’t know,” Alistair whispers, “It’s a little weird to be friends with the guy who sold you, uh, lube.” He clears his throat, and lets his voice reach a normal volume again. “It’s like being friends with your dentist, or something. They know too much.”

“I had sex with my dentist once,” Isabela pipes in, appearing from nowhere. She hands one of the beers she’s holding to Zevran and ignores his snort. “Who cares what they know! So, which dentist do you have your eye on?” she asks conspiratorially.

Alistair chokes a little.

“No– No one’s sleeping with their, uh–”

Zevran’s gaze on him feels like a physical touch. He raises an eyebrow, and Alistair swallows thickly.

“No one’s sleeping with their dentist,” he finishes. “That’s not the point.”

Isabela licks her lips, and something in her eyes tells Alistair she very much knew what the point had been.

“Anyway,” he says, voice coming out far more high-pitched than it usually does, “it’s weird! But I– I didn’t mean to avoid you, I’m sorry,” he tells Zevran.

“Alistair,” Zevran says, and it almost sounds patronising, but his sweet smile counters the effect. “I do not think you quite realise the amount of people that come by the Pearl every day. It is quite entertaining, really, because they all think they have the most shameful of secrets and they all think they have the most to lose if those secrets got out.”

“It’s clearly the mayor,” Isabela says.

Zevran tuts and waves an index at her. “See, we disagree on that topic. I think it’s the police captain.”

“The mayor and the police captain are clients of the Pearl?” Alistair whispers, incredulous.

“Oh, yes!” Zevran laughs. “Listen, I will not tell you that those secrets can do no harm, because they can! This world is unfortunately one that still hasn’t quite accepted sexuality as a healthy part of one’s life. But my point is, even though no one talks about it, sex is everywhere.”

Alistair recoils a little at the idea. Zevran shifts his weight, smiles kindly, and adds:

“I promise this whole situation is not as strange as you make it out to be.”

“It might not be a big deal to you,” Alistair says, voice strung-up, “but it is to me!”

Isabela ruffles his hair, which has the merit to take his attention away from the whole ordeal.

“You’ve got some work to do on this one,” she says in a voice so low Alistair doesn’t think he was meant to hear it. Zevran chuckles, that warm, smooth sound that makes Alistair’s heart feel like it’s swelling in his chest.

Next to Alistair, Iris snorts. How long–

How come everyone is appearing and disappearing out of thin air today?

She glances at him from the corner of her eye and takes a bite of the apple she’s holding, before tipping it toward him like she’s making a toast.

“Hello, you,” Isabela drawls with a smile in her voice.

“Aren’t you going to introduce your friend, Bela?” Zevran asks, pointing his chin at Iris.

“She’s mine, actually,” Alistair says; and then instantly regrets it as three pairs of eyes turn to him. Iris looks like she’s about to burst out laughing. She’s enjoying this far too much, for someone who wants a best bud that looks smooth at all instant.

“I– I mean she’s my friend.” Alistair fumbles for his words. “She’s here with me. She can be yours too. If you want. If you both want to…be friends.”

Iris taps his shoulder a few times and leaves her hand there. It might be meant to be a little mocking, but the touch is reassuring nonetheless.

“Yes, I suppose we might do just that,” Isabela says, but the way she looks Iris up and down has nothing platonicabout it. Alistair suddenly has the feeling that he’s intruding. Is that how Iris has felt, if she’s been here long enough to hear him talking with Zevran?

Nonsense. Zevran has never looked at him this way.

“Al’ and I have been friends since we were teens,” Iris explains. “He asked me to come tonight as moral support! I’m Iris. And you are?”

She knows damn well who they are, Alistair thinks… but at least she’s not immediately babbling about having heard about them – about him. Small victories.

“I’m Isabela.” Isabela doesn’t move to shake her hand nor kiss her cheek, just smiles at Iris in such a primal way that Alistair feels himself blushing.

“My name is Zevran,” Zevran says with a polite smile, and then turns to Isabela. “And I am not certain that flirting with my friend’s friend whom you have just met is very appropriate behaviour, Bela, dear.”

Isabela smiles sweetly at him, but there’s an edge to it that makes Alistair tense.

“Aw, Zev, I’m sure it can’t be any worse than flirting with a client.” She pouts meaningfully as Zevran, who raises a defiant eyebrow.

“Oh?” Alistair says, before he can stop himself. “There’s some– some kind of code about that?”

Zevran chuckles and tuts, gaze flickering toward Alistair and then fleeing to the side.

“No, there’s isn’t. Isabela is, ah, as you Fereldans would say, full of shit.”

Isabela snorts, but she doesn’t seem offended. She shakes her head, dark locks moving around her face.

“Ah.” Relief washes over Alistair like a wave, quickly followed by embarrassment.

Seriously, what’s wrong with him?

“What do you guys work in?” Iris asks, feigning blissful ignorance – blissful for Alistair, that is.

Isabela loops their arms together, and gently leads a more than willing Iris away as she starts talking about the wonders of the Pearl.

Alistair’s jaw tightens.

This is fine. He can deal with this. Being alone with Zevran. They’re not even really alone, in fact – just out of earshot of the rest of the crowd.

From the corner of his eye, he can see Zevran watching him.

Why does his gaze always feel so intense?

When he properly turns toward Zevran again, Alistair’s eyes flicker downward on their own accord once more, and that’s when he notices the trans pin Zevran was wearing in the shop is nowhere to be seen.

“You have this look in your eye,” Zevran says.

“What look?!” Alistair asks defensively.

Zevran laughs and tilts his head. “That look. Do you have an enquiry, my friend, Alistair?”

Alistair bites his lip. “Yeah, actually. But I don’t know if it’s indelicate.”

Zevran hums in encouragement.

“In the shop,” Alistair begins, and points at Zevran’s chest, “that pin you were wearing. Why then, but not now?”

A muscle twitches in Zevran’s cheek, but his tone is relaxed when he speaks. “Ah, the pride flag? Yes, I have been wearing it at work for a year or so. I used not to need it, but once I started passing well enough…” He gestures vaguely in the air, as though it finishes his explanation.

Alistair shakes his head, lips pursed. “So you’re… voluntarily outing yourself? Sorry, it’s just… I’ve got this friend, she’s been on hormones for a few years, and even though she’s open about her transition with her friends, she definitely wouldn’t… purposefully out herself at work.”

“Ah, yes, it is most understandable. But I am lucky enough to be working in a… forward-thinking environment, shall we say. Besides, it is rather helpful to make myself visible to customers.”

Alistair frowns. “What do you mean?”

“Well, you see, a potential transgender client had probably rather deal with a person who understands this about them, had they not? I wear the pin so that they know they can trust me with this.”

“Huh. Yeah, that makes sense, actually.”

“This is not to say that your friend is dealing with it wrong. We all live our identities in different ways, yes?”

Alistair hums his understanding. Zevran’s gaze on him feels focused, and he doesn’t stop looking at Alistair as he drinks a sip of his beer.

“What about you, then?” Zevran asks.

“Me?”

“Any kind of pride flag you would wear?”

Alistair coughs. “Ah!” he says, “Hm, yeah, I guess so. I don’t own any –any flag, that is– but I– I’m bisexual, actually.” It’s still strange to say out loud. “I’ve only realised it in university.” It feels a little lame to admit, somehow.

Zevran clicks his tongue. “It is a shame, how tough bisexuality can be to accept in oneself.”

Alistair nods. In the distance, he watches Isabela laugh at something Iris has just told her. “Yeah, I guess,” he says. “The Andrastian schools can’t have helped either.” He laughs, a little more uncomfortably than planned.

Zevran’s eyes dart up to him, but they don’t stick. Alistair is glad; he doesn’t exactly enjoy pity.

“I am sorry, if I pressured you into anything beyond your comfort levels,” Zevran says. His voice is lower than usual, and he’s still not looking at him.

“What?”

“With the shop. The voucher.”

“Oh!” Alistair shifts his weight. “Yeah, don’t worry. I’m the one who made the decision to come to the Pearl, after all!” Alistair does his best to sound enthusiastic, but it’s like his throat is not big enough for the sounds to come through like they should. “I’m alright,” he adds in a small voice. “I am.”

All in all, the get-together really isn’t that bad. Iris spends most of her time with Isabela – it seems like whenever Alistair spots them, there’s always one of them whispering in the other’s ear? – leaving him alone with Zevran.

Zevran is polite, and sharp, and his chatter has the pleasant effect of making Alistair feel comfortable with all sorts of topics he doesn’t usually discuss. They don’t, as Iris had joked, sneak out to make out in the bushes (although there isone point when Isabela and her disappear for so long he thinks they might have been doing exactly that); but they’re definitely very engrossed in each other. Despite his plan to meet a few people from the neighbourhood, Alistair is still talking with Zevran by the time people start to trickle out of the park, and tables are being cleared and taken down. There might have been a speech, at some point. Alistair isn’t sure.

Iris and Isabela find their way back to them, and they all walk back toward Alistair and Zevran’s building. The air is warm, yet Isabela shivers when they reach the entrance and linger there, idly chatting.

“Zev, sweetheart,” she says, “would you get a scarf for me? I don’t want to catch a cold.”

Zevran squints at her. “Of course, Bela. Try not to eat Alistair before I come back,” he adds with a dark sort of smile.

“Oh, I’m not that threatening!” she says, delighted. “Am I?” She turns a sharp smile toward Alistair, who laughs nervously.

“You’re very threatening. It’s part of your charm,” Iris assures, earning herself a satisfied smile.

Isabela grabs Alistair’s arm, and gives his shoulders a rub before he can react. “Alistair,” she coos, “you look cold too. I’m sure Iris wouldn’t mind getting you a jacket, if you give her your keys.”

Alistair frowns. “I’m not–”

“Yes, I know, you’re not feeling the cold, you’re big and strong! Ah, men,” she adds, rolling her eyes and landing on Iris, making her giggle.

Iris holds out her hand. “Give me your keys, Al’. I’ll find something.”

“Alright, if you two insist.” Alistair digs into his pocket and produces his keys, before squinting at Isabela, who drops her hands as soon as Iris turns around and saunters into the building.

“You’re not cold,” he says.

Isabela ignores him, and she pushes her hair out of her face.

“You know Zev likes you, right?” she declares.

Alistair coughs inelegantly.

Well, even if he had been cold before, he certainly wouldn’t have been anymore. He lowers his head in a vain attempt to hide his blushing face.

“Zevran?” he asks, as innocently as he can. “Doubt it.”

It’s not that it’s an impossible thought. It’s more that it feels like wishful thinking, like the kind of daydreams Alistair used to let himself have about people way out of his league back when he was a teenager.

Isabela shakes her head vigorously, but there isn’t an ounce of aggression in her tone. “I’ve known him for… well, a while now. And I can tell when something’s caught his eye. Why do you think I’ve given you a voucher, if not to entice you to come visit our dear loverboy?”

Alistair snorts. He glances up to find her staring right into him.

What’s with people today and searching his face like he’s hiding the secret to immortality?

“Yeah, you’ve probably made a mistake there, no offence. I don’t think Zevran wants someone like me,” he mumbles.

“Like you? Hey now, don’t think that you being a little freaked out by sex is a turn-off for him just because of his job.”

“I’m not freaked out by sex!” Alistair squeaks out. From the corner of his eye, Isabela cocks an eyebrow. “I’m not!” Alistair repeats. “I’ve had sex, you know!”

Isabela snorts. It’s not an especially mean reaction, but it does twist a nerve in Alistair.

“If you’ve got to say it out loud to reassure yourself, it’s not looking good for your argument,” she confides. She looks amused, yet concerned. It’s an expression he’s seen in Zevran before. Alistair decides he likes her.

“Alright, alright,” he concedes. “Point is, I doubt your gift to read Zevran is as accurate as you think it is.”

She laughs. “It’s not about having a gift, it’s about paying attention. You should ask Iris, she sees it too, and she’s just met him.”

Something feels heavy in Alistair’s stomach, like he might vomit. “You’ve discussed…us?”

“Well of course! What else did you think we were talking about?”

“I thought you were flirting,” Alistair mumbles.

Isabela hums thoughtfully. “Yes, that too. Iris is incredible, you can’t keep her all for yourself! Also, she’s told me there’s this thing she can do with her tongue–”

“Aaaah!” Alistair interrupts. “She’s like a sister to me, please don’t go there,” he begs, discomfort already crawling on his skin.

Isabela laughs, like this is precisely the reaction she was hoping for. At least Alistair isn’t cringing anymore at having his little crush discussed while he isn’t there.

Or his little crush’s potential returned interest.

When Iris and Zevran come back – at the same time, as it turns out… have they been talking, too? – Isabela is back to playing the cold damsel in distress. She grabs Alistair’s jacket from Iris’s hands before anyone can react, letting her touch linger a little too much. Iris blushes as Isabela kisses her cheek in thanks.

“Go on,” Isabela tells Alistair, pointing at the scarf in Zevran’s arms. “You’re not going to say no to the scarf Zevran has brought you, are you?”

Alistair laughs.

Oh, she’s good.

“Sure. Okay.”

Zevran’s hand only touches his for a fraction of a second as he passes him the dark scarf, but it’s enough to short-circuit Alistair’s brain.

Just a little.

“Thanks,” he mumbles as he wraps it around his neck. It smells of Zevran. Alistair wonders how long he’s known what Zevran smells like.

“You’re very welcome,” Zevran says with… fondness? Could it be fondness? Or is he just imagining it?

Isabela is really messing with his brain, huh.

Chapter Text

There’s a knock at the door. Alistair looks up at his clock. Who the void visits people unannounced at nine in the evening?

He leaves his book on the kitchen counter on his way to the door, and snorts fondly as he looks through the peephole.

Why was he even wondering.

He opens the door.

“Alistair!”

“Isabela. Everything alright?”

She settles against the door frame with her arms crossed. “See, the funniest thing happened. We bought a bookshelf for Zevran, but we’ve been at it for two hours and we just can’t figure out how to finish building it!” She sighs.

Alistair crosses his arms, smiling despite himself. Oh, he knows how this works. “Have you hidden some of the screws so it would be impossible to make, and you’d have an excuse to ask me for help?”

Isabela looks behind her, and then back at him. And she actually winks at him.

“Don’t tell him.” She digs into her front pocket, and pulls a handful of screws, which she shoves into Alistair’s fist. “Come now, we’re in dire need of your brains!” She moves into his space and squeezes his biceps shamelessly. “Those arms might come in handy too, once we need to set the bookshelf up against the wall.”

He laughs good-heartedly and turns around just long enough to grab his keys from the counter and shove them in his jeans pocket. “How lucky for Zevran I’m home,” he deadpans as he closes the door behind them.

“How lucky indeed! I don’t know where we’d be without you, really, Alistair, you’re a lifesaver.”

The door to Zevran’s flat is half open, and Isabela pushes it without waiting for an invitation.

“Zev!” she calls, “I’ve found a big strong man to help us.”

Zevran is crouching next to a half-built shelf, and he stands up when he sees Alistair. His clothes are the plainest Alistair has ever seen him in, black jeans and a plain white tee, and yet he somehow still manages to make this seem put-together.

“Alistair,” he just says, and it’s amazing how Alistair hadn’t realised how much he liked his name before hearing Zevran say it in that private tone of his.

“Here to help!”

Zevran smiles, and his gaze doesn’t leave him as he says, “Isabela hid some of the screws, did she not?”

Well, if nothing else, these two understand each other. Alistair opens his fist, revealing the half dozen screws in it.

“Yep!”

Isabela gasps. “My, how have they found their way to your hand, Alistair! Doesn’t the universe work in strange ways sometimes?”

Zevran ignores her, all his attention focused on Alistair. “You do not have to stay, Alistair,” he says. “I do not want you to feel trapped.”

“It’s alright.” Alistair passes the screws from one hand to the other. “I wasn’t doing anything with my evening anyway.”

That’s a lie. He had laundry to take care of, and he meant to organise some of his paperwork; but none of it seems very important anymore.

Isabela claps in excitement. “Perfect, then! Like I always say, two pairs of hands are better than one!”

Alistair blushes at the mental images his brain helpfully supplies. Zevran frowns, and sighs like he was expecting this.

“Two? There are three of us, Bela.”

“Oh, no.” She grimaces. “Unfortunately, I have to go. Didn’t I tell you? I have this…thing… It’s urgent.”

She’s not even bothering to invent excuses anymore. Alistair would be impressed by her confidence, if he wasn’t freaking out about the immediate future. He glances at Zevran, who looks tense as well, although he likely hides it better than Alistair. By the time he looks away from him, Isabela has already gathered her stuff and is putting on her jacket. She rushes by Alistair and hugs Zevran tightly.

“You are devious,” Zevran says low in her ear. Alistair looks away as Isabela fixes his hair; from the corner of his eye, he thinks he sees her gently tap his cheek.

“Bye Zev! Bye Alistair!” she sings, and then the door closes behind her.

For a few seconds, there’s nothing but silence. Zevran watches him; Alistair is suddenly acutely aware of his posture, and he straightens up.

“You truly do not have to stay,” Zevran finally says.

“I know! I know.” Alistair clears his throat. “But really, it’s not bother, if you need my help– if you need… help.”

Zevran smiles. “Yes, I would greatly appreciate some assistance.”

Finishing building the shelf takes longer than either of them has anticipated, and some sections have to be entirely taken down and started over; as is sometimes a consequence of trying to make something with a third of the screws missing.

They quickly fall into the same relaxed chatter that they found at the neighbourhood get-together, and Alistair forgets time is even passing until Zevran’s phone vibrates once.

“Bedtime,” Zevran just says, after looking at the clock.

“Oh!” Alistair exclaims as he gets to his feet. “I’ll leave you to it then, I don’t want to throw off your schedule.”

“No!”

Zevran’s voice is unusually sharp, and it stops Alistair in his tracks.

“It is quite alright,” Zevran continues, “my shift starts later than usual tomorrow. Besides, we are almost done with the bookshelf, it would be a shame to stop now, yes?”

In Alistair’s mind, Iris is teasing him about spending time with respectable gentlemen after their bedtime. He ignores her.

“Okay,” he says. “Let’s finish this!”

It only takes them another fifteen minutes to put everything together, and then they clear the space so that they can lift the structure. Zevran is far from frail, but he’s also much shorter than Alistair, so his help in putting up the bookshelf is mostly symbolic. Alistair doesn’t miss Zevran’s quick glance at his arms as he walks around and pushes it to the right spot, and he’s rather glad he’s taken off his jumper a few minutes ago.

Once it’s all done, Zevran considers his new shelf with his fists on his hips, and he makes a sound of deep relief that stirs something deep and inappropriate in Alistair’s gut.

“Would you like something to drink, my friend? I have some coffee from home, but I know you Fereldans prefer tea…”

Alistair smooths his shirt and clears his throat. “Tea sounds good, thank you. Whatever you’ve got.”

Zevran disappears into the kitchen with a nod, leaving Alistair alone in the living room. He gathers the remaining mess from the floor and, after a quick look around, elects to leave the items on one of the newly built shelves.

There’s a sofa. Alistair sits in the middle of it, and then on the side, one ankle resting over the other leg’s knee. Is this too relaxed? He puts both feet on the ground. And then lets his body slump slightly, once he starts feeling a little too much like a plastic figurine.

Alistair’s eyes go to something he’s only had in the corner of his vision all this time. There’s a series of hangers on the door which he guesses leads to the bedroom – on them, a neat assortment of leather restraints and various other latex items he can’t even identify.

“Nice decoration you’ve got there,” Alistair comments, just as Zevran enters the room with a tray full of fuming drinks and biscuits.

Zevran puts the tray down on the coffee table and follows his gaze. “Ah. My apologies, I was not expecting gues– you.”

Just him. Not guests in general. Alistair has heard a thing or two about the sort of guests Zevran tends to have, and he guesses Zevran doesn’t bother hiding his toys from them.

Alistair smiles politely. “It’s your flat, you do what you want!” He can’t keep himself from glancing at the door again. His eyes land onto a sturdy-looking pair of deep red leather handcuffs.

“What’s all the fuss about those anyway?” he mumbles.

“Hmm?” Zevran asks as he shifts the cups around so that they’d be in the right spot for the both of them.

“Uh, handcuffs. What’s the fuss about those?”

Zevran’s smile shakes, as though he’s holding back laughter, or maybe an inappropriate amount of information.

“Have you ever worn any?” he finally asks.

“No!”

“Well, they are certainly not for everyone, but…” Zevran considers him carefully, before walking to the door and lifting the red handcuffs from their hanger. He swipes his thumb over the material as he turns back toward Alistair.

“Would you like to try some on?” he finally asks.

Zevran tilts his head to the side, staring at Alistair unblinkingly. There’s something incredibly vulnerable in the posture, something in the amber of Zevran’s eyes that drowns everything else in the room.

And, Maker help him, Alistair nods.

Zevran slides closer and kneels between the coffee table and the sofa, right in front of Alistair. His fingers feel almost electric as they wrap around Alistair’s wrist, lifting it up to put the first cuff in place in movements that should be nothing but efficient, but that still manage to raise the hairs on Alistair’s arm. Alistair laughs a little nervously and rubs at his forearm.

Zevran moves on to the second wrist, bringing it close to the first.

“There are, of course, a variety of models, but this sort is the most popular for a reason.”

He’s using his customer service voice, flatter than his natural tone, but it wavers a little at the end of his sentence, as though his breath is running short. Alistair doesn’t think he’s ever heard him sound like that.

Zevran’s whole attention is on the second cuff he’s placing. His blond eyelashes look long and delicate from where Alistair is sitting, and they cast thin shadows on his cheeks. They’re even lighter than his hair, Alistair realises. They don’t look quite real, but then again, neither does Zevran’s touch, nor this whole situation.

“Here you go,” Zevran finally says as he sits back on his heels. It sounds as though he was going for enthusiastic, but messed it up, which Alistair didn’t know was a possibility for a guy like Zevran. When he looks back up at Alistair, his eyes catch the light just like they had, minutes ago, and Alistair feels the words flee from his mind. His mouth goes dry. What could he possibly have had to say? What could possibly have mattered more than… This?

Zevran doesn’t move; or at least it seems like he doesn’t move. Alistair’s heart is pounding so hard he can almost hear it, and something tells him it’s not just the feeling of the cuffs on his wrists.

Without thinking, he grabs Zevran’s face and lifts it to himself as he sinks lower, and their lips crash together.

Zevran jerks back.

“Shit,” Alistair says. He feels his cheeks heat up already, and he jumps back in his initial sitting position. “I– I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have–”

Zevran stops him with a hand on the bond between his cuffs. Alistair had entirely forgotten he was even wearing these.

“Not to worry,” Zevran says softly, lips shaking in the characteristic motion of someone holding back laughter. “I am simply used to working with a safeword, when taking part in any activity where choking is to be involved.” He rubs his throat gently, right where the metal link must have dug into his skin, and with his free hand he detaches the cuffs from one another. “Much better,” he murmurs.

Alistair barely has time to register his hands being free that Zevran is tugging at his shirt and bringing him back to his lips.

Zevran is warm, warm, warm all over. His mouth, and his breath, and the skin on the back of his neck, under his hair, where Alistair is holding him close. Alistair’s heart beats hard, loud– or is it even his? Zevran’s tongue is unbearably soft on his lips. It’s as though Alistair’s chest is about to explode. He’s never felt– he’s never felt–

He pulls away just as the flutter of his heart turns from a pleasant frenzy to actual panic.

Zevran remains where he is, kneeling in front of him, lips red and wet, eyes half-lidded. The rhythm of his chest rising and falling is erratic; his fist closes tighter around Alistair’s shirt, before letting go.

“Are you alright?” he asks, voice rough.

Alistair’s hands are shaking. He isn’t sure whether that’s a good sign. He opens his mouth to speak, and then closes it again when the words don’t come.

“Overwhelmed,” he finally says. “I think.” His throat is so tight it hurts to speak.

Zevran sits back on his heels and licks his lips. Alistair hides his face behind his hands, wishing with all his being to just erase the last few minutes.

“I’m sorry,” he whines, “I feel like such an idiot, I’m the one who started this.”

“Alistair. You might have started this, but there is nothing to finish. You have not damaged anything.” Zevran sighs, and then moves to sit directly on the floor, letting the silence stretch just for a few seconds before he begins talking again.

“I know that sometimes it may feel like there is some kind of script to follow, a logical series of event that everyone but you is aware of. But I can assure you, there is not.” He scratches the back of his head. “All there is is you and me. We make up the story we want, yes?”

Alistair nods. He isn’t convinced, but he fears that doing anything but agreeing will make him sound like he’s sulking, and he can’t bear that idea. He rubs his eyes.

“Maker, I’ve kissed people before!” he protests. “I’ve had sex before!”

Zevran’s eyebrows shoot up as he tries – and fails – to hold back a smile. “Congratulations.”

“No– No! My point is… I shouldn’t be… Like that…anymore. Isn’t it all supposed to be easier, once you’ve gotten rid of the first times?” He hates how whiny he sounds. The crash of adrenaline hits him hard, and he feels a little like crying. Zevran puts a hand on his shoulder as he gets up to sit next to him. He’s not touching him anywhere else; Alistair is grateful.

“If you wish to speak, I would be very happy to listen, but there is no need to justify yourself, yes?”

Alistair nods, and Zevran hums his approval.

“Here.”

Alistair accepts the mug of tea Zevran is handing to him, and he holds it tightly between his hands until it’s almost burning his palms. He focuses on that feeling, rather than the words he’s about to say.

“I’d never kissed a boy,” he confesses, without looking at Zevran.

“Shame. They are rather lovely.”

Alistair laughs. It’s a strangled sound, but it’s honest. “I know.”

Zevran chuckles with him as he brings his probably scalding coffee to his lips without hesitation. He takes his time appreciating his mouthful as he watches Alistair.

“First times are not something to be discarded like tumours,” he finally says. “They are quite precious. You should savour them.”

Alistair grimaces. “But I’m so bad at it! All of it!”

“No such thing,” Zevran assures. “Unless someone is getting hurt, there is no way to be bad at this. They are all… experiences, as it were. They are unique.”

Alistair feels like his whole body is deflating. He doesn’t want to be having this conversation, and yet he doesn’t want to be anywhere else than here. He has the fleeting thought that no one could be a better interlocutor for this conversation than Zevran; it’s something to do with the softness of his words, and the insistence of his gaze.

Alistair brings a hand to his mouth and distractedly chews on his thumb’s nail.

“I– I feel like everyone’s got it figured out,” he whispers, “and I’m the only one who doesn’t have a clue what’s happening. I’m twenty-three! I’m a university graduate!” There’s a bit of righteous anger in his tone; Alistair doesn’t try to control it. He is angry. He is scared and tired of feeling guilty and inadequate.

Zevran hums. Just hums – and Alistair’s mood flattens out into quietness before the end of his breath. Alistair has never known anyone who had that effect on him, but somehow Zevran does it effortlessly.

“Sex is messy.” Zevran pauses to think. “Relationships are messy. Trust me, I know what I am talking about.”

Alistair snorts.

“You?”

Zevran cocks an eyebrow at him. “I am transgender, Alistair. Do you really think sex is and always has been obvious and easy to me?”

Alistair feels a little dumb, now that he mentions that. “No, of course not.”

“As people who do not fit in traditional relations, we have to figure out our own normal. We have to have imagination, and courage. But it is also a privilege that is not to be squandered.”

Alistair swallows back a protest and forces himself to take a sip of his still too-hot tea. Zevran remains quiet, and for a bit all they do is drink in silence without looking at each other, as though they weren’t fervidly making out just moments ago.

“Why are you doing this?” Alistair finally asks, voice weak.

“Doing what?”

“Why are you being so nice to me, staying up past your bedtime to tell me all these things? I know for a fact that you’re not lacking company.” Alistair doesn’t mean to make it sound like an accusation, but it’s how it comes out anyway.

“Ah.”

Zevran’s gaze drops to the floor, and, around his mug, his knuckles pale briefly.

“Because I like you,” he simply says.

There’s a twist in Alistair’s throat. Zevran still isn’t looking at him.

“You have, ah, piqued my interest, as you Fereldans would say. If my only place in your life is to be platonic, then I accept it gladly. But know that my true desires do not stop here.”

“Even after seeing how much of a wreck I am?”

“You are not any such thing, Alistair.”

“See, I know you mean it, but I have no idea how you’ve found that conviction.” Alistair laughs nervously.

Zevran smiles sweetly, but there’s an edge to it. “Then you will have to trust me on that. I am certain you can manage that. You did let me handcuff you, no?” He chuckles as Alistair feels his mouth drop open in offence.

“N–Not fair!” he stammers.

“You agreed to it!”

Alistair grumbles an admission. Zevran licks his lips and swallows.

“Did you like it?” he asks, faint smile still playing on his face.

Alistair looks down at his now separated but still cuffed wrists. He remembers Zevran gently holding his forearm to bring it up where he needed it to be.

“I liked your hands on me,” he breathes, and then is hit by a wave of images of those delicate fingers on other parts of his body; on his stomach, and in his hair, and pressing into the flesh of his thighs. He ducks his head in a vain attempt to hide his face and the thoughts that Zevran will no doubt be able to read clear as day.

Zevran laughs, but there’s nothing mocking in it. It’s a sound that feels like Iris’s hugs do.

“I liked yours on me.” His voice is rough again. Alistair wonders whether he’s doing that on purpose. Regardless, it gets his attention; his eyes flutter toward his neck, where he’d instinctively put his hand earlier, and then to his lips. They’re still swollen. Just a little. Alistair swallows.

“I can’t…go further. Not right now. I don’t know when I’ll be able to.”

“I understand.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Zevran says, and then, “would you like to kiss me again?”

Alistair’s heart soars and plummets at once. It’s a rather nice feeling.

“I would,” he breathes. “I do.”

Chapter Text

Zevran (7:48)

          Are you home?

Alistair (7:53)

          Yeah! Are you? Do you want to come over?

Zevran (7:54)

          I am, but no, I had something else in mind, if you are in the mood…

 

Alistair’s message interface disappears as his phone rings, displaying Zevran’s name. He picks up.

“Hello?”

“Alistair.” Zevran’s voice is focused, rough, and the sound of his own name sends shivers down Alistair’s spine.

“What did you have in mind?” Alistair feels the tension in his own voice, and winces.

He can almost see Zevran’s smile in the other side of the line.

“We are under no obligation to do anything, of course, but today I stumbled upon an idea, for you and me. I know you are not ready for any… further activity, as of now. But phone calls might be an elegant solution, might they not?”

Alistair stops dead in his tracks, breath coming out short.

It’s been a few weeks since they first kissed. They’ve been spending time at each other’s places, watching movies and chatting – but mostly making out. Alistair hadn’t realised how much he enjoyed kissing, but these days it’s the only thing on his mind. When he isn’t on Zevran’s sofa with hands in his hair and lips against his, he’s thinking about being there. Dreaming about it.

Maybe sometimes touching himself to it.

To Zevran’s breath on his skin, the scent and sounds of him all around Alistair. To his fingers on his scalp and his body pressed on his, melting against him as though he’s trying to become part of him.

More often than not, Zevran’s treatment is enough to make him hard. When it does, he just laughs wickedly against his lips and kisses him harder.

Sometimes, it makes Alistair feel a little like he might die. It wouldn’t be the worst way to go.

Now, through the phone, Zevran speaks in a collected voice that sounds more like the music used to charm snakes by the second.

“You do not have to speak, if you do not wish to. I can talk plenty for the both of us.”

Alistair chuckles nervously. “Like– Like one of those sex lines?”

In his phone, Zevran laughs. “My, what do you know about sex lines, Alistair?”

“Nothing! I– I’ve never called one, it’s just that… Iris was an operator for a while.”

His nose wrinkles as he rubs the back of his neck. Has he ruined the mood? He has, hasn’t he.

The line is silent for a few seconds, and then Zevran hums. “Yes, I suppose I can be a sex line operator, if that is what you would like me to be. I can be anyone you want,” he purrs.

“Zevran.” Alistair rests his forehead against the wall of his living room, the one that stands between their flats.

“Yes?”

“No, I mean. Zevran. You can just be yourself. I want you to be yourself.”

Zevran chuckles. “Aww, are you not just the sweetest boy…”

Alistair isn’t sure whether this is common dirty talk, but it works nonetheless. He swallows, and bites down on a dumb answer before it comes out as he tears himself away from the wall.

“Are you in?”

“Yes,” Alistair breathes.

“Good. Because I’ve been thinking about this idea all day.”

“Yeah?”

“Hmm,” Zevran drawls. “Waiting for the evening has been torture. I wanted you to be home. Wanted you.”

“You caught me at the right moment then! I’ve just arrived.” Alistair winces as he says these words. How is he even managing to be this awkward? This should be thrilling! Instead he’s still running on his normal script, and there’s nothing hot about it.

But Zevran doesn’t miss a beat. He laughs – and it’s not a mean sound – and continues. “Lucky me. Getting you all to myself.”

Alistair’s throat feels dry, the air in his lungs so heavy it’s like a weight in the centre of his chest. Can Zevran hear him breathe?

“Do you want to know what I would have done, if I had been in your flat when you arrived?”

“Yeah.” Alistair flattens his back against a wall to keep himself from shaking too much.

“I would have taken your coat from you. Removed your shoes. Made sure you were comfortable, yes?”

“Hmm.”

“I want you to be comfortable. Is your shirt not a burden, after a long day? Does it not feel itchy, do you not want to remove it?”

“Yes.”

“Remove it, then.”

“Okay.”

Alistair puts the phone on a shelf just long enough to tear his shirt off inelegantly.

“Is it done?” Zevran purrs when he brings the phone back to his ear.

“Yeah. It’s done.”

“Would you like to know about me?”

Alistair closes his eyes. “Yes.”

“I am sitting on my sofa. The one I like to kiss you on.”

“Oh.”

“The one I like to tease you on. I enjoy making you all hot and bothered, you know.”

“I know!” Alistair laughs breathily. He feels his cheeks heat up at the memory of Zevran’s teeth grazing his earlobe and buries his face in his elbow.

“You do look very alluring, with your face all red, trying to hide from me.”

Alistair’s arm springs away from his face. “I’m not–”

Zevran tuts. “It is quite alright. I did say you were alluring, it is no reproach. Would you like to know what I would have done next, were I in your flat?”

“Yes.”

“The day must have been so tiring on your poor body. I would have taken you to your bed.”

Oh, shit. Alright.

Alistair walks to the bedroom and sits on the edge of his bed, fingertips buzzing and blood rushing to his extremities. It’s like Zevran’s words are making his every nerve more receptive; the bedsheets feel electric under his free hand as he rests his weight on it. This is it. Zevran is going to get a lot dirtier, now. Alistair’s heart quickens at the idea.

But Zevran continues unhurriedly, “I would have made you lay on your stomach, while I climbed over your body. Did I mention I was trained in massages? I have these oils, at home–”

“This is torture!” Alistair blurts out, and he lets himself fall flat on his back.

Zevran laughs, a sound like he’s been caught off-guard. There’s a snort in there, and Alistair can’t be mad when Zevran makes this sound.

“Oh, trust me, my friend,” he drawls, “you know nothing of this kind of torture!”

Alistair feels himself blush harder. “I don’t get it,” he mumbles before thinking. “The stuff that…hurts. I don’t get why people are into it.”

“I can explain, one day, if you wish. I can show you. You might like it yourself, Alistair.”

“Hah! Doubt it.”

“No? How would you feel, then, if I sunk my teeth into the soft part of your neck, right now?” he purrs. “Bit you just hard enough to bruise the skin, hard enough that you would have to remember me in the following days?”

Alistair makes a choking sound as his cock twitches against his jeans. “Alright,” he admits in a whisper. “Maybe I get some of it.”

“I thought as much.”

“Don’t sound so smug about it.”

“Only if you stop sounding so turned on about it, my dear Alistair.”

Oh Maker. He does sound turned on, doesn’t he? He realises now just how raspy his own voice is coming out, all low and eager. It’s a voice he’s never heard himself speak with.

“What then?”

“I would have massaged your back with all the care in the world, of course. Really worked these muscles until they were putty in my hands, undone all the knots to make you feel more relaxed than you have been in recent memory.”

Somehow, every single word sounds too obscene to ever be said in public. How is Zevran doing that with his voice?

“I would have taken care of you so well that you would have been moaning before I even reached your shoulders. You would have blushed, of course, squirmed, maybe, but you would not have asked me to stop. It would have felt too good.”

Alistair licks his lips. He’s never considered massages to be particularly sexy, but now it’s the only way he can see them. He can’t get the image of Zevran’s hands out of his mind. His long fingers, with their perfectly manicured nails, pressing into his muscle, wrapped around his–

“And then?”

“Well, I said I wanted you to be comfortable, did I not? I would have wanted to take care of your every need.” There’s a smile in his exhale. “What do you need, Alistair? What do you want?”

Alistair waits. Two, three seconds, and there’s nothing but heavy, controlled breaths on the other side of the phone. That’s when he realises the question wasn’t rhetorical.

“I need…”

Zevran hums in encouragement.

“I need to come,” Alistair whispers. His breath shakes.

“I want to do that for you.”

Alistair whines.

“Are your trousers still on?” Zevran asks.

“Yes.”

“Remove them.”

The noise of need Alistair makes is so alien that for a moment he doesn’t realise it’s come from him.

“I need both hands,” he says, “give me a minute.”

He puts the phone onto the bed with shaky hands and gets up to take his trousers off. It takes him a few attempts to get the zipper, which keeps slipping from his fingers, but he eventually manages to undo everything, and he throws his jeans and boxers in the general direction of the bathroom.

“It’s done.”

He feels a little silly, standing alone and naked in his flat with his cock bobbing in the air, but then he forgets it all as Zevran rasps in his ear, “Good. Are we not better, more comfortable, without trousers?”

“You too?”

“Well of course. I can’t let you have all the fun.”

Alistair lets out a breathy laugh. He pictures Zevran, on his sofa, in nothing but his underwear. Or maybe nothing at all. Talking to him. Thinking about him. Right across that wall, he realises, looking up toward his living room.

On the phone, there’s the sound of shifting. The image of Zevran burying a hand in his underwear is enough to make Alistair feel dizzy, so he sits back onto the bed.

“Are you picturing me?” Zevran asks, and his voice is lower than it was seconds before.

“Yes.”

“How do I look?”

Dozens of words burst in Alistair’s mind, each one more enamoured than the last. He can’t pick the perfect one –he’s never been good with words– so he just murmurs, “Beautiful.”

Zevran hums in appreciation, and he breathes out a little shakily. When he speaks again, it’s quicker, as though he’s getting impatient too.

“If I had been there –after the massage– I would have asked you to remove the rest of your clothes, and then I would have covered your body with mine, until you could feel every inch of me, up to my lips moving on your shoulder blade. I would have held your wrists, pinned you against the bed. Do you like the idea of being trapped under me, Alistair? Of knowing that you have the strength to get free at any moment, but that you will not?”

Alistair’s breath gets stuck in his throat when he tries to answer. He splutters and coughs before he manages to choke out, “Yes.” He finally brings a hand to his cock, but all he does is hold the base of it and squeeze, in a desperate attempt to regain control of himself.

“Big, strong Alistair, laying there shaking as I drag a hand down your side… Along your ribs… Under your body, over your stomach. Would you have let me go further down, my friend?”

Alistair lets himself fall on his back again. He’s shaking. From his shoulders to his thighs, he feels as though he’s been pulled taunt like a bowstring, every piece of him kept in tension by one strong hand. “Yes. Yes.”

“I would have found your cock there. Warm and hard in my hand. Warmer than the oil coating my palm. You would already have been so close to coming, so deliciously primed by my massage, every inch of your skin awaiting my touch. You would have wanted to thrust into my hand, would you not have?”

Alistair doesn’t even find it in himself to be embarrassed by the whine that escapes him despite the firm bite on his bottom lip. “Yes.”

“But you could not have. You would have been pinned. Trapped. The only pleasure you could have gotten, is the pleasure I would have given you. Do you deserve it, Alistair?” Zevran’s voice turns dark at the end of his sentence, and it makes Alistair’s blood heat up. It’s a good feeling. It makes him see stars at the edge of his vision.

“Yes.”

“Have you been good?”

“Yes. Yes. Please, Zevran.”

Alistair isn’t even sure what he’s begging for. He takes the head of his cock into his fist and squeezes it, maybe a little too hard.

“Fine.”

Alistair starts jerking himself off in earnest as Zevran exhales shakily on the other side of the call.

“I would have dragged my curled index along the slit. It would have been wet.” Zevran sounds like he’s losing focus, like he’s forgotten any sort of plan he had and is just free-falling now. “You would have been so close already, Alistair, so close…”

He is close.

“I wish I could taste it,” Zevran says, and it sounds more like a confession than most of what he’s said since the beginning, almost like he’s talking to himself.

“Zevran!” Alistair warns as his cock twitches in his hand.

Zevran just laughs in answer. Or maybe his breath is so shaky it sounds like laughter.

“Zev, I–”

Despite the breathlessness, there’s still a smile in Zevran’s voice as he says, “see, I told you. Are you going to come?”

Alistair squeezes his eyes shut as he begins stroking faster. “I am– I’m close–”

Zevran laughs. “Yes,” he breathes. “Come, Alistair. I want you to come. Do this for me.”

And he does. Hard and sudden, through his fingers and onto his stomach.

He hasn’t quite come down from his orgasm yet that he hears a strangled shout through the phone.

And through… the wall.

Zevran is moaning – or laughing – or just breathing in in that hoarse, frantic way he’s been doing – but in any case, it’s a sound that raises the hair on Alistair’s arms and hurts something deep in his chest. It’s a good hurt. He wants to hear that sound again. And again, and again, and again. He wants to cause that sound, directly cause it, with his hands and mouth and words.

Hearing Zevran come because of him is almost better than coming himself.

It’s surreal.

On the other side of the phone, Zevran sighs, and then he laughs a little hysterically.

“I am very good at massages,” he says. His voice is all broken, and it’s far sexier than Alistair feels like he can handle right now. His limbs feel heavy.

“Are your massages really always that mind-blowing, or is it all false advertising?”

“Ah, but I am truly quite skilled, trust me.”

Alistair laughs. The exhaustion is really starting to settle on his eyelids, now, and it’s playing tricks on his mind. He’s feeling… Lonely. He’s also feeling a little stupid for feeling lonely, since someone just spent half an hour talking to him and about him, but… There’s something else. Something more. If he could just suggest– if he could just ask–

“Zevran?”

“Yes, my friend?”

Alistair rubs his temple. “Would you… I don’t know, it might be a little weird, after all this. But would you come over? I’m feeling sleepy, and I’d really like it if you would… stay here tonight.”

For a few seconds, there’s nothing but silence. But just as Alistair is about to withdraw his offer and change the topic, Zevran speaks.

“Of course. Right now?”

“Just– Just give me fifteen minutes? I want to take a shower.”

Alistair thinks Zevran might ask to join him in the shower, but–

“Text me when you are ready, yes?”

Faint disappointment washes over Alistair. Maybe it’s time he started asking for the things he wants himself, instead of waiting for Zevran to suggest them.

Not tonight, though.

Phone sex and a sleepover are already far too much excitement for one day.

“Okay. I’ll text you.”

The shower feels a little bit like a dream. Alistair’s skin is buzzing from the orgasm and the nervousness both – why did he even invite Zevran over? Which stupid corner of his stupid brain is responsible for this idea?

But then he considers telling Zevran that he’s changed his mind, and the sheer thought of not having him over is unbearable.

He texts Zevran just when he’s finished brushing his teeth, as he’s pacing in his pyjamas, drying his hair with one hand. It’s only a few minutes before there’s a knock on the door; behind it, Zevran is waiting in immaculate black pyjamas so classy they could almost pass for regular clothes.

Well. If worn separately. Maybe the full black satin get-up might be a little too obvious.

Zevran smiles slowly. He’s watching him through his eyelashes, looking entirely like a cat about to purr would.

“I have heard rumours of a sleepover happening here?” He drawls.

Alistair laughs, and moves to the side to let him come in. “You’ve heard correctly!” Zevran’s hair tickles his arm on the way, making him shiver.

Zevran gives a twirl as soon as the door is shut and they’re both in the main room. “As you can see, I am being very proper. I did not know I even owned pyjamas, but look at me go!”

Of course, Zevran sleeps in the nude. Of course.

Alistair’s eyes dart to the sliver of skin between the bottom of his shirt and his trousers, while his mind helpfully supplies images of that skin under his fingertips.

No. Not going there. Enough adventures for one evening.

“Like I said, I’m just going to sleep.” Alistair’s mouth feels dry. “This is not, uh, anything else.”

“Ah, yes, I think we have had plenty of extracurricular activities for one day,” Zevran agrees.

“Yeah! That’s what I was thinking,” Alistair adds. Uselessly. Why does so much of what he says sound stupid around Zevran?

They walk to the bedroom, and Zevran jumps onto his bed without asking for permission, before shimmying under the covers. He looks at Alistair and tilts his head. “Come now! Rest is very important, have you not been taught about it?”

Alistair laughs, but it comes out a little strangled. He turns off the main light, leaving only the bedside lamp on, which bathes Zevran in soft orange light.

He looks good. He looks really, really good.

Alistair swallows.

He walks around the bed and settles under the covers. Far from Zevran. He can feel the heat of him, but he has no idea where his limbs are, and he’s afraid to– afraid of–

What is he afraid of?

Zevran is watching him, in that intent way of his. Alistair shifts closer. Zevran mirrors him. Alistair moves a little closer still.

It’s Zevran’s thigh, that Alistair bumps into first. With his knee. He brings his pillow closer to Zevran’s. The distance between them isn’t that short, but they’re still close enough that Alistair can feel Zevran’s breath on his face.

“Is this okay?” he asks.

“It is.”

“Alright.”

Zevran smiles. “Alright.”

“Want to turn off the light?”

Zevran twists around and, after a few seconds of fumbling, he finds the switch.

It’s different in the dark. Sharper, but somehow less intimidating.

Alistair thinks it might be Zevran’s eyes that do that to him – the intimidation. It’s in the way he watches him, the way he always seems to guess what Alistair is thinking just by looking at him.

A hand takes one of his and pulls it up, and then there’s warm lips on his palm. Alistair’s whole body shivers. If Zevran has noticed it, he doesn’t comment on it.

“You are quite remarkable, my friend, Alistair,” he murmurs.

Alistair scoffs before he can help it.

“You are quite remarkable,” Zevran repeats in a tone that doesn’t allow a response, and he kisses his palm again. “Sleep well.”

“Good night,” Alistair murmurs.

He hopes Zevran can’t hear the tears in his voice.

Chapter Text

It’s Isabela’s idea.

Or maybe it’s Iris whispering evil, evil plans to Isabela, who’s more than happy to set them into motion.

Whatever the case may be, the day is warm and sunny, and they all find themselves at the lake, sitting on beach towels in their swimwear and sharing snacks between dips in the water.

Zevran refuses to put any more than his feet in the lake – something about the Fereldan summer not being a ‘real summer’. He pouts a little for show, but he laughs and smiles just as often as he usually does while standing there in dark green swimming trunks, covered in tattoos, watching Alistair wade into the water.

He watches him a lot.

And Alistair has never seen so much of Zevran’s skin.

There’s an insistent sort of warmth that settled on his cheeks and in his chest (and maybe lower, too) as soon as Zevran pulled off his shirt, a warmth that hasn’t left him since.

So while Iris and Isabela mainly stay on the towels to chat, their bodies casually close to each other, Alistair spends most of his time in the lake. He hasn’t had the time to swim in a few weeks, and now he’s grateful for the lack of practice that forces him to focus on his technique rather than on the knowledge that Zevran is watching his every move.

With that focused, hungry look of his.

Alistair wants nothing more than to revel in that look, to touch Zevran’s skin, to hold his hips close to him as he… As he….

Alistair almost chokes on a mouthful of water.

He’s desperate to be close to Zevran, but he can’t imagine anything worse than being affectionate with him here, where people can see.

Iris and Isabela being so obvious about their attraction really isn’t helping. Alistair doubts they’ll ever be in a relationship, but he knows for a fact that they’ve had sex and will likely have sex again… And anyone could tell that just by watching Iris lay her back against Isabela’s chest, asking to be kissed with a flutter of her eyelashes – and being indulged without hesitation.

But Alistair can’t do that. So he avoids Zevran’s gaze, avoids being out of the water too much, avoids being too close to him when he doesn’t have a choice. From the corner of his eye, he sees Zevran glancing at him when he exits the lake, watching the water drip from him. Zevran isn’t usually that shy with his ogling, and Alistair is very aware that this is for his benefit.

They don’t talk much. Alistair wonders whether Zevran also feels the insistent warmth in his chest.

The silence is still charged between the two of them when everyone climbs back into Iris’s car to head back to the city. In the passenger seat, Isabela jokes and laughs, and Alistair isn’t quite sure what the topic is, just that Zevran contributes the occasional comment, and that sometimes, when he does, Iris looks at Alistair in the rear-view mirror.

Half-way through the trip, Alistair feels a different pair of eyes on him. Zevran extends his arm across the middle seat, offering his hand. Alistair takes it before realising that he’s sweating – but Zevran doesn’t comment. He just holds it right there, squeezing it softly when Alistair feels panic flutter in his chest.

When Iris drops them off, she kisses his cheek, something she rarely ever does. There’s a knowing look in her eyes, and Alistair is grateful that she doesn’t actually say anything about Zevran out loud.

As they cross the car park, Alistair’s hand itches to hold Zevran’s again, but he doesn’t know how to do it smoothly, or how to ask, or even how it would work with their height difference, so he gives up on the idea.

But Zevran has a better one. Just as they enter their building, he puts a hand on the small of his back; and everything else drowns out until it’s all Alistair can focus on. It’s so light, and yet it feels like it’s burning him to the bone. He isn’t even certain what Zevran is chatting about from the front entrance to his flat’s door.

He turns around when they reach it; Zevran stops talking and lets his hand drop. He stands there, too close and too far, looking up at him with these curious amber eyes. There’s a smile on his lips. It’s so very faint, but Alistair has learnt to see them all; he never wants to miss a single one of Zevran’s smiles.

He also wants that hand back on the small of his back.

And he wants… He wants. So much more. Everything. He wants Zevran. Right now, in his flat, in his arms, against his skin.

“Do you want to come in?” Alistair chokes out.

Zevran licks his lips as he smiles wider, slowly. His gaze rakes over Alistair’s body.

“Yes, I would like that very much indeed.”

Alistair spins toward his door so quickly he almost loses his balance. He gets his keys from his pocket and, just as he’s mentally congratulating himself on not dropping them, Zevran put his hand on his back again.

Alistair drops the keys.

He swears under his breath. His fingers are shaking as he picks them up and finally manages to unlock the door.

They’ve barely entered the flat that Zevran is clutching his forearm, tugging at his neck to bring him down to his lips. Alistair comes gladly, and he blindly closes the door with his foot in what he hopes to be a smooth enough movement.

Zevran is so…alive, under his fingers. The muscles of his arms shift as he wraps them around his neck; his hands join behind Alistair and press between his shoulder blades, not hard, but constant and encouraging. Zevran moans softly into his mouth as his back hits the wall – Alistair pulls back, not wanting to trap him, but there’s a firm tug on his neck until he has no choice but to stay right there.

“I’ve been wanting to do that all day,” Alistair breathes against him.

“Hmm. Me too. If I had known you were so attractive while swimming, I would have taken you to the lake much sooner.” He softly bites Alistair's lower lip, before putting his cheek against his so he can whisper into his ear. “Or I would have taken you to a spot where we would have had more privacy.”

Alistair can’t help the soft keening sound he makes. For a moment he thinks he ought to be embarrassed by it, and then Zevran’s teeth close on his earlobe and he isn’t thinking of anything anymore.

“You were… You are… You are so beautiful,” he babbles. “All afternoon. With the sun… It makes your hair– it makes it glow… I wanted to touch it, so badly.”

He does just that. He buries his hands into Zevran’s hair, and then his face, and breathes in the smell of the sun and the lake. In his ears, his heartbeat slows. Zevran melts against him.

“There is something you should know,” Zevran says against his chest. He pauses, long enough that Alistair has to push down a spike of anxiety, but then he sighs and says, “I am on medication. I cannot always climax.”

Alistair lets go of his hair, moves back so he can look at him while Zevran’s arms fall back to his sides.

“Oh,” he breathes. “And you’re– you’re okay with that?”

Zevran cocks an eyebrow. His smile is a little sad – but just a little. “Given the alternative, I have to be. I am intending on reducing my dosage, but in the meantime I make do, as it were.” He inclines his head and watches his hand as he gathers the front of Alistair’s shirt into his fist. “I wanted you to know that my difficulty to come does not mean any failing on your part, or lack of interest on mine.”

He moves closer to him, until he has to crane his neck to look Alistair in the eye. His voice gets lower as he says, “Because I assure you Alistair, I am very interested.”

He takes Alistair’s wrist and gently guides him to his groin. The warmth of him radiates through his thin clothes, perceptible before he even reaches his body; and when he does, he finds Zevran’s dick, engorged and throbbing softly against his palm. Alistair whines just as Zevran gives a shudder and pushes into the touch. The look in his eyes is hungry.

Hungry for him.

Alistair swallows.

“The bedroom is that way.” His voice is so weak it’s almost a whisper.

Shirts are discarded somewhere between the kitchen and the bedroom, and Alistair finds himself sitting on the edge of the bed, Zevran kneeling on it by his side. There are tattoos all over him, as well as scars on his chest – thin, imperfect lines of a delicate pink colour that matches that of his tongue. Zevran swings his hair over his shoulder when he sees him looking.

“My scars do not hurt,” he says, “you may touch them if you want. I cannot really feel much in my left nipple, but the right one is doing perfectly fine.” He smirks as he says that, and then, true to his word, sighs in contentment when Alistair experimentally ghosts his fingers over his right nipple.

Despite everything that’s happening, Alistair still marvels at how easily Zevran talks about these things. If he had to say something like that, he would probably lose his voice and then blush so hard there would be no more blood left for his brain.

Not that there’s much blood in his brain right now. Zevran swings his leg over his body and then straddles Alistair’s lap, pressing against him, solid and warm. His hair is completely loose, and it cascades around Alistair as he grabs his face with both hands, tilts his head back and kisses him hard. His tongue is demanding and sure, and as much as Alistair wants to return the enthusiasm, he can do nothing but melt into his touch.

Zevran chuckles as Alistair bucks up against him despite himself. He finally pulls back to catch his breath, and Alistair doesn’t think he’s ever seen him so bothered, with golden hair stuck on his bottom lip and his eyes shining dark.

“Off,” Zevran orders, and he moves to sit farther on the bed, while gesturing insistently at Alistair’s trousers.

Alistair gets up on legs that don’t quite hold his weight. He expects Zevran to be removing his trousers too, but instead he finds him resting on his elbows, watching him intently.

Alistair’s heart feels like it’s trying to beat right out of his chest.

He unbuttons his jeans. Zevran licks his lips. Alistair slides the zipper down and removes the jeans entirely before he can hesitate; Zevran smiles wickedly.

“All of it.”

The boxers go. Alistair fights an incongruous urge to clasp his hands in front of his crotch as his cock springs free.

Zevran slithers closer and, still on the bed, he extends a hand and lets two light fingers follow the curve of Alistair’s hip, considering. When he inclines his head, his breath lands on the side of Alistair’s cock and it’s enough to make it twitch. Zevran chuckles quietly.

“Do you have any condoms?”

“Condoms!” Alistair chokes out. “Yes! I bought a box, uh, recently.” He turns to his bedside table and retrieves one from the drawer.

When he turns back, Zevran is arching an eyebrow at him. “Recently?” he echoes, before gesturing at Alistair to join him in the middle of the bed.

“After that night I helped you put the bookshelf up.” Alistair’s cheeks heat up as he says this, but it’s soon forgotten when Zevran crawls close to him and plucks the condom from his hand with a look that forbids him from protesting.

“You have foresight as well as being an excellent swimmer.” Zevran opens the wrapping without breaking eye contact. “How many other hidden talents have you got, hmm?”

Alistair squirms under the scrutiny. He rests his weight onto his elbow. “I’ve been known to dance the Remigold,” he jokes.

That gets a startled laugh from Zevran, who stops with the condom held just above Alistair’s cock. “You are full of surprises, my friend.”

Alistair swallows back a sound as Zevran unfolds the condom onto his cock. He’s barely touching him, but the quick fingers on his shaft are all he can focus on. And then he blinks, and Zevran has moved further down the bed and is eyeing his cock with a new sort of hunger.

“Has anyone ever sucked you off?”

Alistair means to answer out loud, but no sound will come out; so instead he just shakes his head and swallows hard. Zevran’s smile widens. His gaze is dark as he grips the base of his cock and, without breaking eye contact, licks one burning, wet stripe up the underside of the shaft.

Alistair makes a rather inelegant gurgling sound.

“Flatterer,” Zevran says, and then his lips wrap around the head of his cock and Alistair’s whole body catches on fire.

A noise that doesn’t even feel like his own escapes his throat as Zevran’s tongue presses against the slit, drags upward with the movement of his head, and then does it again. Alistair only realises he’s started to move when Zevran shifts to place a hand on one of his hipbones; it doesn’t pin him to the bed, Zevran was right, Alistair has more strength than that, but the feeling of the fingers digging into his flesh helps him remember not to follow every urge in him screaming with the desire to thrust upward.

The fire in him doesn’t slow down. It engulfs every inch of his body and every thought in a matter of moments, and it’s a miracle he even has enough brain power left to realise he doesn’t want to finish right now. He jolts up and reaches for Zevran’s shoulder.

“Zev– Zev! Wait!” he pants.

Zevran licks him one last time before moving back and sitting between Alistair’s legs. His tongue darts out, which does nothing to hide how wet his lips are. If it wasn’t done before, Alistair feels the wind knocked out of him by the sight.

He also realises then that Zevran is still wearing his trousers. How did he even forget about that?

“Yes?” Zevran’s voice is raspy and low.

Alistair lets himself fall back onto the bed and squeezes his eyes shut, trying to gather thoughts that are not about Zevran’s lips.

“I was about to– I didn’t want it to end.”

The bed shifts under him as Zevran crawls up and settles near him. He buries his fingers into Alistair’s hair, turning him gently for a chaste kiss.

“I am very glad you told me.” He speaks close to his lips, tugging softly onto Alistair’s hair, and the sting of it helps bring him back from the edge. “If you had come now, how would I have ridden you?”

That part doesn’t help Alistair at all.

His fingers twitch. “Oh?” he whispers, so low it’s barely a sound.

Zevran’s hand relinquishes its hold onto his hair, moving instead to caress his cheek distractedly. His golden eyes are so close they’re almost blurry. “How would you feel about that?”

“I would like that very much.” Alistair doesn’t care how enamoured his broken voice might seem.

“Do you have lube? With the hormones, well. Trust me, it would be a lot more pleasant for the both of us if we had lube.”

Alistair stretches out to his bedside table. “I still have some of the, uh. The one I bought at the Pearl.” He waves the bottle to illustrate his point, before putting it down on the bed.

“How lucky for us you have not used it all,” Zevran remarks as he hops off the bed.

Alistair rakes a hand through his hair. “It was a close call,” he confesses.

“Ah, well, I am excellent at my job. I do give very good recommendations.”

It doesn’t take Zevran long to undo the knot holding his trousers up, but then he hooks his thumbs into the waistband and pauses. He looks up at Alistair, a smirk on his lips, before beginning to push the trousers down so slowly Alistair could swear time itself has come to a standstill.

It’s Zevran himself who loses patience first; he laughs at his own teasing and removes everything in one swift motion, abandoning it on the floor as he climbs back onto the bed. Alistair meets him half-way, as they’re both on their knees, and their lips crash together.

“Down,” Zevran says right against his lips after a few beats, breaking the kiss. “I cannot ride you if you keep moving about.”

Alistair steals another kiss (and one last one for good measure), before finally returning to his earlier spot, from which he watches Zevran.

The bottle of lube squeaks as he squeezes out some of the last of it – Alistair grimaces at the sound, but Zevran doesn’t seem bothered. He briefly pumps Alistair’s shaft to spread the lube on it and then he’s straddling him, hovering above with his hair swung over his shoulder –one hand holding Alistair’s cock in place while the other, propped on the bed, holds his weight.

Alistair whines at the sheer sight of him. At the determination in his eyes, and the way his tongue darts out right before his smile opens.

“Ready?” he murmurs.

“Yes.”

Zevran’s grip on him shifts a little as he moves. Alistair’s cock is pressing against Zevran’s entrance, burning warm even through the lube’s properties. He wants to say something, but then Zevran has pushed himself down onto his shaft in one swift motion, and Alistair can’t quite breathe for a second.

Zevran hisses through his teeth. His body undulates above Alistair’s to find a good angle. And all Alistair can think is, ‘most beautiful man, most beautiful man, most beautiful man…’

Zevran tears a hiccup from him as he lifts himself up and drives back down again. He’s looking down at Alistair, mouth open and lips curled into a smile, and his breath is too loud to quite be called a breath, and he laughs quietly when Alistair makes that keening sound that he seems so fond of.

Once he’s set a rhythm, he leans back until his body is upright, grips Alistair’s thigh with his clean hand, and takes the other one to his own groin. He catches his dick between thumb and curled index with the ease of habit, and he strokes it in time with his back-and-forth onto Alistair. His hair follows in a messy tangle as he throws his head back. There are beads of sweat on his torso, on the trembling arm with which he’s furiously jerking himself off.

“Can I– I want to help,” Alistair pants. As gorgeous as the sight of Zevran pleasuring himself is, Alistair’s fingers are itching to touch him.

“Lube.” Zevran indicates the bottle with his chin, not stopping his own movements for an instant. Alistair squeezes some out onto his fingers; only then does Zevran actually slow down.

“Like that.”

He takes Alistair’s hand in his, and shows him how he was holding his fingers, before guiding him between his legs.

His dick throbs against Alistair’s fingers, and Zevran groans when he begins stroking hesitantly.

“Yes. Faster, Alistair. Please.”

The sheer sound of his voice pleading is almost too much for Alistair. He shuts his jaw tight and tries to focus on Zevran’s pleasure more than his own – although it doesn’t help much.

Zevran soon changes position, leans forward again so their chests are level. From that angle it’s harder for Alistair to follow the instructions he’s been given, but Zevran doesn’t seem to mind as he nestles his face against the side of his neck.

“Do you remember,” he pants, body still rolling tirelessly on his cock, “what I said, on the phone…” His burning breath crashes against Alistair’s throat as he moves so close his teeth are grazing the skin.

Alistair whines. “Yes. Yes. Do it.”

“Are you certain?”

“I trust you.” He cranes his neck, exposing more of his throat to Zevran. The thrill of blindly offering such a vulnerable part of his body sends jolts all the way to his fingertips. “I’ve been thinking about it. Please.”

Zevran doesn’t need any more. His touch never loses its carefulness as his teeth graze over the skin once more, and then oh-so-slowly close around it.

Alistair knows Zevran won’t take it too far, but the feeling of his teeth sinking into his skin, so close to his throat, so close to his jugular, puts him in a frenzied state that’s like letting go and jumping from a cliff right into the water below.

He thinks Zevran makes a sound against his skin. He isn’t certain, because he’s already tumbled over the edge, and the sound of the blood rushing in his ears drowns out all the rest.

When he comes to, Zevran isn’t biting him anymore. It’s his tongue, rather than his teeth, that’s on his throat, soothing the place that still radiates warmth. Zevran kisses that spot so very delicately, and then blows cold air on the wet patch. Alistair shivers.

“Someone certainly enjoys a little biting,” Zevran drawls.

Alistair has the vague feeling he should be embarrassed, but all he can do is laugh.

Zevran pulls off of him and carefully removes the condom from Alistair’s softening cock. He ties it into a knot and drops it off on the floor, before kneeling next to Alistair with his hands folded in his lap.

“When you are feeling up to it, I think we should take a shower, no?”

Alistair lifts himself up into a sitting position, frowning. “No… wait… You– You didn’t… Did you?”

Zevran shakes his head. “No, I did not. But–” his gaze gets very serious “–I told you why that is. I promise this was a lot of fun for me, Alistair, orgasm or no. Besides,” he adds as he scoots closer, lips almost touching Alistair’s and fingers dancing around the forming bruise on his neck, “making you come is its own form of satisfaction, is it not?”

Alistair’s arms are still trembling as he wraps them around Zevran and pulls him close. He winces when the movement places Zevran’s chin right onto the sensitive spot on his neck, but he doesn’t let go.

“Shower sounds good,” he murmurs.

He buries a hand into Zevran’s hair, but quickly finds it stuck in the tangles. Zevran chuckles against his shoulder.

“I do believe that washing my hair would be a wise decision. What do you say we go to my flat? All my products are there.”

“Alright.” Alistair doesn’t even think about what he’s agreeing to. All he knows is that he doesn’t want to be apart from Zevran right now. He holds him tighter. Zevran doesn’t really hug him back, but he’s not rejecting the contact either; he’s waiting patiently for Alistair to get his fill. Alistair is rather grateful. He thinks he’s always been like that – thirsty for touch – after sex. He pushes down the vague memory of a few girls pulling away from him in university.

Zevran smells good; he still has the sun on him, and that perfume of his. He smells of sex, too. Alistair knows that in a while it’ll probably just smell of sweat, and it won’t seem quite as appealing, but right now it’s soothing. It reminds him he is wanted.

He clears his throat and breaks the hug before tears can overflow from his eyes.

“So, that shower!”

They put back on just enough clothes to be decent, and hurry from one flat to the other without meeting anyone. Alistair feels like he’s back in those awful high-school dorms he used to stay in, where Iris would drag him along into her latest adventures that would lead them to sneak around the place.

Zevran drops his shirt into a laundry basket as soon as they’re in private again, and the rest follows shortly. He turns back and gestures meaningfully at Alistair.

“I do not allow clothed individuals in my shower, I’m afraid.”

Alistair laughs nervously – why is he back to feeling jittery? – and removes everything before he can think about it too much. He lays his clothes neatly onto the back of a chair and heads to the bathroom. There, he finds Zevran already standing in the bathtub with his back turned, testing the water’s temperature with a tentative hand under the trickle from the shower head.

Alistair pauses in the doorway.

It’s the first time he actually has all the time and liberty to really look at Zevran.

He really is gorgeous. His skin is dark and smooth, covered in the finest of blond hair in places, making it look like it’s glowing. The same is true for his hair, reaching right to the middle of his shoulder blades, always seeming to attract all the light in a room like one of these classical paintings of angels and saints.

And then there’s the tattoos. They’re all of the same style than the ones on his cheek, probably by the same artist: perfect black lines tracing the shape of his muscles, following his curves, embracing his body like the constant touch of a lover.

“Enjoying the view?”

Zevran is looking at him over his shoulder. He tilts his head back and flashes an amused smile.

“I like your tattoos.” Alistair waves a hand at him, as though he needed to point them out.

“Why thank you. I am quite fond of them as well. Say, do you intend on joining me?”

“Yeah! Of course. Sorry.” Alistair walks to the bathtub. “I just got… distracted,” he mumbles. As soon as he’s climbed into it, watching his feet so as not to trip, he finds fingers under his chin tipping his head up.

“I do love distracting pretty boys.”

Alistair snorts, and Zevran tuts disapprovingly.

“You are very pretty, my dear Alistair, there is no doubt about that.” He leans nearer, and nearer, until his body is so close to Alistair’s that he’s certain Zevran can feel his hair raising on end despite the overall warmth of the room. “You were also marvellously sexy, today.”

Alistair feels himself blush.

“Did you really– Was it really okay, for you?” he stammers.

Zevran laughs as he properly turns on the shower. “It was more than ‘okay’,” he assures, and tips his head back to wet his hair. “I do not invite ‘okays’ in my shower.”

Alistair feels his bones chill with the reminder that they haven’t talked about their relationship at all, and that he might well be just another fuck – although a good one, apparently – on Zevran’s long list.

He tears himself from that train of thought with the knowledge that he’ll have to get back to it eventually. The smile he gives feels forced, but Zevran doesn’t seem to notice it as he turns off the shower and bends down, returning with a bottle of shampoo.

“Can I do it?” Alistair blurts out.

If this relationship doesn’t go any further, Alistair will be damned if he doesn’t use his shower privileges for all their worth.

“Do you know how to wash long hair? It tangles easily.”

Alistair nods. “Iris got her arm broken once. I washed her hair for a month. I’ve gotten quite good at this, trust me.”

“I do.” It’s such a short, quiet answer, but it’s infused with so much sincerity that it feels like there’s more than those two words. He squirts some product in Alistair’s extended hand, before putting the bottle back down and turning around, standing still and patient.

For a moment, despite his previous assurance, Alistair is overwhelmed at the sight of his hair. If it was anyone else’s, he would trust his experience and do what he’d promised to do. But Zevran’s hair had felt so forbidden, for so long, that it sort of gives Alistair the impression that he might just get kicked out of the Garden for touching it.

Or something.

Maker, sex is really making him stupid, huh.

He makes the shampoo foam in his hands, before working his fingers into Zevran’s roots. The gentle massage is familiar, almost meditative, and Zevran is the perfect height, so Alistair only notices he’s been doing it for much longer than necessary when Zevran breaks the silence with a groan.

“Sorry,” Alistair says, dropping his hands.

“Never apologise for working such magic.” Zevran’s voice has dropped low. When he turns around, his chest is rising and falling ever-so-slightly too fast. He smirks.

“Oh,” Alistair says.

“I should have asked you to do this to me much sooner. You have very talented hands.” He catches Alistair’s still-soapy hands and lifts them up, digging his thumbs into Alistair’s palms as he contemplates them with obvious interest. Alistair blushes.

“It wasn’t meant to be…”

“I know.” Zevran lets go of him and turns the shower back on to rinse off the shampoo. “It still was very enjoyable.”

He moves to the side to allow Alistair to rinse off his hands.

“Care to apply the conditioner?” he asks once the shampoo is all gone.

Alistair hums his approval, and he takes care of it as efficiently as he can without snagging the hair. He’s not sure he’ll be able to bear it if Zevran looks at his hands like that again. He rinses himself off when it’s done, and he’s so focused on getting the product out that he doesn’t notice the way Zevran is looking at him until he turns the shower off again.

“What?” He squirms.

How can Zevran make him squirm with a simple look?

Zevran’s lips curl at the corners as he purrs, “such a gentle boy, so careful not to tug on my hair… Maybe one day we will not always have to be so sweet, hmm?”

Alistair dutifully ignores the part of his brain desperately latching onto the implications of this ‘one day’ and grits his teeth.

He knows a thing or too by now. Not personally, but he knows enough to be aware that some people like their hair pulled. Regardless, he still leans into Zevran’s bait and asks, “what do you mean?”

Zevran tilts his head to the side, hair heavy with product gliding off his shoulder. “Oh, well, it just reminded me, we have established you enjoyed a little bite,” he drawls, flashing his teeth, “I was merely wondering if you would be quite so receptive to other sorts of…stimulation.”

Alistair doesn’t mean to lean closer – he doesn’t! – but his body does it anyway, and Zevran’s face lights up as he picks up on the movement.

“I’m curious,” Alistair murmurs, really fast.

“There is a bit of a technique to it, to avoid damaging the hair.”

“Show me.”

Zevran hums as his smile widens. The hair at the back of Alistair’s head is too short, so Zevran has to roll on his tiptoes and reach for the top.

“One has to dig in–” he narrates, burying his fingers in “–make a fist–” the grip tightens “–and pull.” Zevran doesn’t put much strength into it, but it’s still enough that Alistair has to follow the movement he’s setting. He gasps quietly as he tilts his head to where Zevran wants it. Maybe it’s the satisfaction in Zevran’s eyes, or maybe it’s the pull on his hair; but regardless of the reason, Alistair feels his heartbeat quicken.

Zevran pulls some more. Down, down, down to his lips, and when he kisses him, he’s still holding Alistair’s hair tightly.

“You are so pliant, Cielito,” he murmurs against his lips. There’s awe in his voice; Alistair doesn’t think he’s ever heard anyone talk about him that way. He’s struck by the need to hear it again, and then by the vague shame of such a self-centred desire.

“Yeah?” he whines.

Zevran lets go of his hair, only to brush it with his fingers. “So attentive and lovely. Such a sweet boy you are.”

Alistair shivers and rests his forehead in the crook of Zevran’s shoulder, wondering how such simple words can make him feel like that. He wants to cry, and laugh, and most of all, he never wants to stop touching Zevran’s skin.

He’s in too deep.

And then Zevran begins rubbing his back gently, and he can’t take not knowing anymore.

“What is this?” his voice is so low he doubts Zevran would have heard it if he weren’t so close to his ear. “Us. I need to know. I’ve guessed how you probably do things, normally, I’ve guessed you’re probably used to casual, but…”

Zevran’s hand on his back stops moving, but he doesn’t say anything. Alistair doesn’t have the heart to detach himself from him, for fear of seeing his expression.

“I’m sorry if I ruined this,” he says between gritted teeth. “But I need to know. I haven’t asked before, and I should have, but I can’t– I can’t do casual. Not now, not with you.”

Zevran swallows audibly. “I can’t.”

Maker, but that hurts.

Alistair squeezes his jaw shut, hard, forcing feelings down so he won’t literally cry on Zevran’s shoulder. “I understand,” he articulates.

“No, Alistair. I mean I cannot keep this casual.” Zevran sighs as his fingers curl against his back. “I have tried. I am, as you said, used to casual. But you… You are…” he gently grips Alistair’s shoulders and pushes him just far enough that they’d see each other. His gaze is serious. “I am yours, if you will have me.”

The declaration is so far from what Alistair had thought was happening just a minute ago that it makes him feel light-headed. He opens his mouth, closes it, and opens it again. He gestures between the two of them.

“So, is– Are we– Is this a… Is this a boyfriend situation?” He has to fight the urge to whisper the word boyfriend.

Zevran bows his head. His smile is polite and careful. “If it is your wish as well.”

Alistair feels like his whole body is vibrating. “I’d like that a lot,” he breathes.

Zevran seems to deflate as he exhales in relief, his expression finally breaking into a smile. He ruffles Alistair’s hair, looks down, shakes his head as he laughs, before looking back up at him.

Brasca, Alistair, quit smiling like that!” he berates, gaze slipping from his once again. It’s rare for Zevran to avoid looking at him.

Alistair feels his smile in his cheeks, so wide it’s a little painful.

“Why?” he asks.

Zevran digs his fingers hard into the flesh of Alistair’s arm as he looks straight back at him, amber eyes so focused they burn, and says, “because I might just have to make you come again.”

He does, for the record.

He keeps Alistair’s back pressed against the blissfully cold tiles of the shower as he kisses him, hard, and jerks him off, fast. When his lips aren’t on Alistair’s body, he’s standing close, eyes searching him, darting around to follow every single one of Alistair’s reactions. He smiles that toothy grin of his every time Alistair shudders and keens, murmurs encouragements when he’s close, pushing him inexorably to his peak with gentle threats and praise so sweet they make Alistair’s cock pulse between his fingers.

He laughs when Alistair comes; always laughs. Then he holds him close as they wash themselves and each other, and he eventually rinses off his hair while Alistair watches with fascination those long fingers slide between the soft golden strands.

When Zevran steps out of the bathtub he gets them a towel each, but Alistair surrounds the both of them with his own without a word. Zevran tucks himself close to him, letting his towel hang from his forearm.

“I know it is rather early,” Zevran says, “but I am feeling quite tired, and wish to go to bed. Will you spend the night here?”

“Yes.”

Alistair has rarely felt so sure, about anything.

He usually wears pyjamas to sleep, but today the air is warm and Zevran’s skin is warmer still as he crawls close to him under the covers.

Holding him against his body feels different under the protective layer of the bedsheets. It’s not that Zevran isn’t appealing anymore – he always is – but rather that the frantic energy between them kind of… settles. It’s a peace of sorts. Alistair drags his hand up and down Zevran’s side, almost meditatively, appreciating the smoothness of his skin. His fingers bump against the scars under his nipples, and he follows them blindly as Zevran watches him.

He can’t find the words to tell Zevran how he feels. Maybe one day he will, but for now he’ll keep on exploring his skin with the flat of his palm.

“When I came to the Pearl,” he finally says, as the memory pops up in his mind, “that… that dildo you showed me. Was that really the first toy you’d bought?”

Zevran chuckles, and the sound of it echoes in the tips of Alistair’s fingers.

“Oh, yes.”

“Why did you tell me about it?”

Zevran shifts, tucking his arm under his head to get a better look at him. “I wished to make you feel less exposed. I find it is always easier to be vulnerable when the others are as well. It is a little like… how we do not mind so much being almost naked in swimming pools, because everyone else is as well.”

“Oh. That makes sense. Thanks, I suppose.”

Zevran’s lips stretch into a wicked smile. “Also, I do love seeing you flustered,” he adds.

“Zev!” Alistair gasps, and Zevran laughs gleefully.

“I know, I know, I am a terrible man.”

Alistair pouts at him. In any other circumstances, it would make him feel a little childish, but here, with him, he feels safe. He’s about to respond with another quip when he notices Zevran’s scowl. He isn’t looking at him.

“What is it?” Alistair asks in a low voice.

Zevran inhales sharply, eyes fluttering up to his and then slipping away again.

“I worry,” he murmurs.

“About what?”

Zevran brings his free hand in front of himself and watches his thumb’s nail as he digs it in the pulp of his fingertips, one by one.

“I have not had a boyfriend in… quite some time,” he finally says.

“I win.” Alistair gently squeezes Zevran’s flank. “I’ve never had a boyfriend at all.”

Zevran chuckles. His body does relax, but he doesn’t drop his hand. “Here is to figuring it out together, then,” he murmurs, smile on his lips and in his eyes.

Alistair takes Zevran’s hand in his, uncurling it and kissing the palm just how Zevran had done to him before.

“To figuring it out together.”